Governor’s order doesn’t impact worship; bishop temporarily suspends other parish gatherings

In a letter to pastors Nov. 20, Bishop Donald Kettler acknowledged the resurgence of COVID-19 in the state and sought to clarify his expectations in light of Gov. Tim Walz’s most recent executive order and recommendations from state health authorities.

The governor’s order, which went into effect Nov. 21, prohibits social gatherings and closes bars, restaurants and gyms to the public through Dec. 18. The order also paused amateur sports.

The order does not affect worship services, such as Masses — including for weddings and funerals — and prayer events in churches. The governor noted that the recent spread of the virus has not been linked to worship services.

Bishop Kettler noted, however, that all liturgies must continue to follow the protocols the diocese already has in place, especially in regard to wearing masks and physical distancing. Receptions and social gatherings before or after Masses, weddings and funerals remain prohibited.

Other gatherings outside of Mass — including faith formation classes, youth gatherings and retreats as well as council meetings, social activities and other organizational meetings — pose a greater risk of spreading COVID-19, the bishop said. From now until the end of the year, he added, these in-person gatherings must be suspended and shifted to online meetings or conducted at home.

Catholic schools in the diocese “will continue to follow present evaluation models and other strict protocols to determine when in-person and periods of distance-learning are most appropriate,” he wrote.

“I am requiring these measures at this time because I believe they are the best way to protect one another and serve the common good during this very difficult time,” he said. “I will continue to evaluate the pandemic situation and make changes in the future based on the recommendations of our health authorities and my advisors.”

Minnesota recently topped 200,000 total confirmed COVID-19 cases. It took Minnesota more than six months to record 100,000 COVID-19 cases, but just 42 days to add an additional 100,000 new cases, the Minnesota Department of Health explained in a Nov. 18 update sent to faith-based organizations.

It added that the “most recent weekly COVID-19 report found that the current average rates of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and deaths are the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic.”

Visit for the latest virus-related information from the diocese.

Photo: CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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