To the Faithful of San Diego:
As the feast of Corpus Christi was approaching in June, it seemed that the Catholic community of the diocese of San Diego would soon return to consistent public celebrations of the Eucharist in our churches. Knowing of the deep love for the Eucharist among our people, we were confident that a return to vigorous Mass attendance and a drop in the threats of the pandemic were in sight. As we now know, that confidence was ill-founded.
Today, Covid roars through our nation, and even states like California that moved vigorously to suppress the spread are now confronting sustained rises in the rate of disease that threaten a cycle of continuous and growing deaths and sickness. The governor has now suspended many elements of public life that had been returning, most sadly, the celebration of the Eucharist within church or other buildings. As of tomorrow morning, it will be illegal to hold indoor worship services in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
The question of legality is a key element of the decision that I am now called to make on the celebration of the Eucharist indoors in the coming weeks. But it is not the only one. For on the issue of indoor worship the Church in San Diego is faced with a profoundly moral choice. In making this choice, we must keep in mind both the centrality of the Eucharist and the obligation the Church has to ensure that our public worship does not undermine the life and the well-being of our faithful.
The sensus fidelium enjoys a particularly strong claim in a moment such as this. We have all been edified by the faith of those who have returned to the Eucharist in recent weeks. But the fact that only twenty to twenty five percent of our normal Mass attendees have returned to the Eucharist in these weeks is also a witness: a witness to the fact that seventy five percent of our people who love the Eucharist and attend Mass regularly see danger in returning to Mass at this time.
It is this witness of the majority which substantially informs my decision today to suspend all indoor celebrations of the Eucharist or other public worship in the Diocese of San Diego, except for life-streamed Masses with a small number of ministers necessary to carry out the goal of streaming.
Holding Mass outdoors is a realistic alternative in most of our parishes. And the vast number of men and women from parishes where outdoor celebrations cannot be done are within a short driving distance to another parish. Outdoor celebrations will provide a healthier setting for Mass in a time of rising pandemic. They can also legitimately lessen peoples’ fears. Thus the decision to shift to outdoor worship is a reasonable effort to make our celebrations safer in a time of growing risk in society.
Most importantly, holding outside celebrations of the Eucharist will continue to provide the Mass for our people.
These are enormously difficult days. Like the apostles on the lake we have been called to put out into deep waters, and we look for the Lord’s plan and guidance.
With tremendous gratitude for your love for God and the Church, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy
Bishop of San Diego
- Starting July 15, all Masses will be held outdoors in the Diocese of San Diego.
- Everyone will be required to wear a mask and to maintain a social distance.
- You may have to bring your own chair and umbrella; please check with your parish.
- Most parishes will continue to live-stream their Masses; check with your parish for days and times.
- All Catholics in the Diocese continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice.