“Please regularly remind people to follow the safety practices necessary to curb the spread of the virus. This is real, it is dangerous, and it has to be taken seriously,” he added.
“The resurgence is due in no small part to people becoming lax once the shelter-in-place rules began to be lifted. Please urge these practices upon them; absolutely do not give them the impression that the coronavirus is not a serious threat to the physical health of our community.”
Cordileone said he detects “no unified sense of how the Church should proceed in these unprecedented times,” adding that they often have found the guidance and orders from the city confusing.
He said he and other archdiocesan officials have been working with local authorities to convince them that in-person worship services can be conducted in a safe and responsible manner. Despite their efforts to dialogue with local authorities, the city’s health orders have not changed.
Currently the City and County of San Francisco is limiting outdoor worship services to 12 people, with indoor worship services of any kind prohibited.
Cordileone pointed out that the city has allowed retail stores to operate at 50% capacity during the same time period that people of faith are prohibited from gathering in their churches, even with masks and social distancing in place.
“With regard to outdoor services, you are all well aware that pre-planned and scheduled street protests have been allowed to continue unhindered, while the limit of no more than 12 people still applies to everyone else, including us,” he continued.
“Yet here again, an outdoor worship service is a much safer event than a protest, since the people are stationary, social distance is respected, and the participants are wearing masks.”
San Francisco has seen numerous street protests in recent months, including one in late June that resulted in the destruction of a statue of St. Junípero Serra by a crowd of about 100 people.
The San Francisco archdiocese has recently been under renewed scrutiny from secular officials after the city says it received complaints from citizens about parishes holding Masses indoors.
Early this month, the archdiocese pledged to comply with the city and county public health orders barring indoor public Masses and limiting outdoor services, including funerals, to 12 people.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter June 29 to the archdiocese’s lawyer, ordering the archdiocese to cease-and-desist indoor public Masses and giving it one day to comply.
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“Upon reviewing the reports of multiple San Francisco parishes holding indoor Mass over the last few weeks, the Health Officer has concluded that the Archdiocese is putting not only its parishioners but the larger community at risk of serious illness and death,” the letter said.
The archdiocese told CNA today that it has made a good-faith effort to comply with the city’s public health guidelines, despite some occasional confusion and last-minute changes to the city’s public health orders.
“Our intention has always been to conform to what we understand to be the City orders and timelines,” the archdiocese said July 2, noting that the city’s orders have been constantly changing throughout the pandemic, sometimes on short notice.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has mandated that only outdoor and online services are permitted in counties that fall on a state monitoring list for rising COVID-19 infections.
The San Francisco archdiocese covers the city and county of San Francisco, as well as San Mateo and Marin counties, all of which are currently on the state’s list. The governor has said that the state’s list currently covers some 80% of all Californians.
In terms of school reopenings, in-person learning will not be allowed for public or private schools whose jurisdiction is on the state monitoring list.