"Public celebrations of the Sacraments are permitted as long as adequate spacing and social distancing are managed and maintained," he wrote.
In addition to Mass, the new directive also covers confirmations and first Communions, which are to be scheduled at the parish pastor's determination, and baptisms, which are to be limited to immediate family and godparents.
"Weddings may be celebrated with the limitations stated above," the letter said, and made similar provision for funerals.
Priests were instructed to consult with county health departments about precautions when administering the sacrament of anointing of the sick to patients with COVID-19.
"All priests are encouraged to provide reasonable and prudent measures to ensure everyone's safety, including their own," Warfel said. "Everyone is encouraged to continue to practice good hygiene. People who feel sick should remain at home, as should vulnerable and at risk-populations."
In a video posted on YouTube on April 22, Bishop Robert Coerver of Lubbock, Texas, said that, following new guidelines from the state Attorney General, it was now possible for churches to provide for the distribution of Communion through drive-up services.
The video was accompanied by a letter on the diocesan website.
"Therefore," Coerver said, "I am asking that our parishes make preparations, as soon as possible, that Communion be made available to people at the conclusion of live stream Masses or at the conclusion of Masses which might be offered outdoors."
In his own provisions, issued last week for Las Cruces, Bishop Baldacchino emphasized his own preference for outdoor Masses, which could accommodate larger numbers of the faithful in a safe way – either in spaced, parked cars, or elsewhere on parish property.
"We have to be creative, we have to respond to the times and the needs of the people," Baldacchino told CNA. "I was very inspired by our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He spoke about how drastic measures are not always good. He opened the churches of Rome – in a safe way, of course – and warned us that we must remain very close to the Lord's flock at this time. We cannot wall ourselves off."
"Of course," Coerver said, parishes could only hold outdoor Masses "observing social distancing guidelines."
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"The best prevention of the spread of the virus continues to be staying at home," he cautioned. "Those over 60 years of age, or those with pre-existing medical conditions which make them more vulnerable to the effects of the virus should not attend church services at this time."
The bishop reiterated that the suspension of the Sunday obligation remained in effect.
All attendees at an outdoor Mass in Lubbock must wear masks, the bishop emphasized, and he said he would be providing the clergy of the diocese with "very specific instructions" on the distribution of Communion.
"We need to continue being extremely cautious about the spread of the virus," Coerver said. "I have consistently followed the directives of the civil authorities and will continue to do so, even if I might personally disagree with some of the aspects of reopening which they might be implementing."
When he became the first bishop to reinstitute the public celebration of Mass during the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Baldacchino noted that many civil jurisdictions, including the state of New Mexico, had prioritized liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries as "essential services" ahead of churches, calling the priorities "totally upside down."
"I hope that this might be a glimmer of Easter hope for all of us," Coerver said.