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COVID again closes Tucson's Catholic churches

Mass indoors canceled for one month as coronavirus spirals in Southern Arizona

The Bishop of Tucson has called off most church services, including Sunday mass, until at least February 5, due to the substantial increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and crowding in local hospitals.

No public indoor mass services will be held after Friday, January 8, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger announced Tuesday.

From the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Southern Arizona:

  • Both Sunday and weekday indoor Masses or gatherings are suspended. 
  • In individual situations, and based upon local circumstances and conditions, pastors may seek permission from the Bishop to celebrate some indoor Masses.
  • Masses may be celebrated outdoors in accord with existing protocols.
  • Funerals and weddings may be celebrated indoors but are limited to a maximum of 25 persons; baptisms are limited to a maximum of ten persons.  No gatherings before or following these celebrations are allowed on parish or church property.
  • Pastors are strongly encouraged to provide pastoral care through Masses celebrated for the people via the Internet as well as providing Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Penance outdoors.

High-risk people should be ministered to online until they receive a vaccination, he said.

"A suspension of four weeks from indoor liturgies also allows us to stand in solidarity with those who are critically ill, healthcare workers, the unemployed, those grieving the loss of loved ones, and all those whose lives have been far more substantially altered," Weisenburger said.

"Unlike the period of time early in the pandemic, when in-person worship was initially suspended, we now can see victory on the horizon," he said. "A period of four weeks should make a considerable difference in the availability of the COVID vaccine for those most at risk.  Hopefully it also will help us to evaluate more accurately the anticipated post-Christmas spike in infections and resulting hospitalizations."

Weisenburger also prescribed protocols for priests anointing the sick, including the use of gloves and other PPE, cautioning against physical touching, and the use of cotton swabs for administering oils.

In March, Tucson's Catholic bishop curtailed the celebration of Mass during Lent due to the beginning of the first wave of coronavirus cases, dispensing with the obligation of Sunday mass from the middle of that month through April 6.

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