Minnesota bishops plan to defy Gov. Walz order on gatherings at places of worship

Under own safety guidance and at 33 percent capacity, they are resuming mass in time for the Pentecost

Sloane Martin
May 20, 2020 - 7:32 pm
Bernard Hebda


The Minnesota Catholic Conference plans to defy Gov. Tim Walz's restrictions on gatherings at places at worship.

Walz’s latest reopening announcement did not change anything for places of worship, keeping gatherings to 10 or fewer and physically-distanced, while restaurants are permitted to open sit-down outdoor seating up to 50. In a letter signed by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and six Minnesota bishops, they said limiting capacity in a cathedral that seats several thousand "defies reason."

"Given our willingness to coordinate with the Governor," the letter states, "we are especially disappointed that his most recent order (20-56) does not address both the vital importance that faith plays in the lives of Americans, especially in this time of pandemic."

It’s in addition to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka’s disapproval. He said Wednesday in a statement: “I am growing more concerned there is a targeted effort to keep churches closed.”

Walz said the decision is around the "predictability of the setting," and complications like evidence showing singing can spread the virus.

Walz says the decision is around the unpredictability of the setting, and complications like evidence showing singing has spread the virus.

“There is a very strong sense of urgency for us to figure this piece out around churches,” Walz said. “I say that about all the businesses but I do think these pieces of people's lives we need to try and get it around. I would just tell you I think it goes with the predictability piece of it. I will again say that I don’t think that it’s perfect and I think there’s some things that we have to continue to still figure out.”

The bishops say no one is required to attend but they’re giving parishes permission to resume Mass Tuesday May 26 to prepare to celebrate the Pentecost May 31. Churches will be required to follow the conference’s own sanitation and social distancing measures and only allow one-third capacity inside.


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