Bishop provides update on church reopenings

Decision will be based on COVID-19 numbers

Bishop Daniel E. Flores and other church officials conduct the Easter Mass Sunday for worshipers at home watching the livestream at Immaculate Conception Cathedral.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Bishop Daniel E. Flores, of the Catholic of Diocese of Brownsville, hopes to announce soon when he will order the reopening of the churches in the Diocese.

In a letter written Friday, Flores said although he has met with the Deans, the Consultors, and the Presbyteral Council, the consensus is that the churches not open this weekend.

Flores said the virus continues to spread in the Rio Grande Valley and that local officials are still concerned of the possible spread of COVID-19. He added that the churches will also need time to prepare the clergy, volunteers and church workers “for the measures that will have to take place before, during and after every Mass when we do open.”

On March 18, the bishop ordered that churches be closed until further notice because of the spread of the coronavirus.

“ I expect that fairly soon I can announce the date for resumption of the public celebration of Masses in the Diocese,” Flores states in his letter.

Since the temporary closing of the churches, Flores has been celebrating Sunday Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville, with the Mass being live streamed on the Diocese’s Facebook Page and broadcast live on Somos el Valle.

The bishop said announcing of the reopening date depends on whether the health trends in the Valley continue to improve and if the parishes are fully prepared to observe the health protocols that have helped to deter the spread of the virus.

Flores said churches will have to prepare themselves and the community prior to the reopening. He has authorized priests and administrators of the parishes to begin having small group gathers of volunteers and church members, who will assist at the Masses. He said people meeting in these small gatherings should practice social distancing and wear facial coverings.

At these gatherings, volunteers will need to be trained on how to properly disinfect the pews after Mass, and guide the people entering and exiting the churches, he said. They will also need to assist parishioners seeking Holy Communion. The Diocese will provide the parishes with disinfectants, extra facemasks and other supplies.

Flores said the churches will soon receive specific protocols for the celebration of Masses in the Diocese and the distribution of Holy Communion, “so that we can all be as ready as possible to put them into practice when I do decree a date for resumption of public Masses.”

The bishop added when the church preparations are in order and the local numbers of infections monitored by local health officials “are encouraging, I will be able soon to announce the date for the resumption of public Masses.”

lmartinez@brownsvilleherald.com