Bishop Robert McElroy leads a diocese that runs the length of California’s border with Mexico and serves more than 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial Counties with 98 parishes, and 49 elementary and secondary schools. Photo by Chris Stone

Bishop Robert W. McElroy announced Catholic churches in San Diego County will be able to reopen for Mass on Wednesday with reduced capacity and social distancing.

The announcement follows new guidelines from the state of California that allow limited reopening of many businesses and institutions in counties where the coronavirus pandemic is not considered widespread.

“Parishes in San Diego County may begin holding Masses inside their churches tomorrow. All religious services inside must observe social distancing and include no more than 100 participants,” McElroy said.

The bishop said indoor worship should include “universal use of masks, no physical expression of the Sign of Peace, Communion only in the hand, and careful traffic patterns for Communion.” He said some churches may choose to keep their services out-of-doors

“In talking with several pastors, it is clear to me that parishes will make different choices in San Diego County on whether to hold Mass inside, outside or both in the coming weeks,” he said. “Pastors should make the choice that best fits their physical situation and community desires.

The diocese also oversees Imperial County, which has one of the highest case rates in the state. McElroy said the diocese is waiting for that county to issue new guidelines on indoor services.

He noted that “the universal dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Eucharist continues throughout the diocese” because of the pandemic.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.