The day after announcing that parishes in Minnesota can ignore a statewide order on religious gatherings, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis explained the pastoral motive for his decision.
Catholics “really depend on the Eucharist to get through the challenges of their lives,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda told reporters May 21.
“The reception of the Eucharist is extremely important,” the archbishop added. “We can’t have the opportunity for communion by livestreaming.”
Speaking at a press conference Thursday afternoon, Hebda said the May 20 decision of Minnesota’s bishops to ignore a prohibition of religious gatherings of more than 10 people was a pastoral decision.
“We have this responsibility to take care of the spiritual needs of our people,” Archbishop Hebda said.
The archbishop’s remarks came one day after a historic decision that Minnesota’s six dioceses would permit parishes to resume public Masses amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to flout statewide pandemic orders.
The bishops said that parishes can open for Mass next week, if attendance is no more than 33% of building capacity, and if parishes follow rigorous sanitary and liturgical protocols designed in consultation with public health experts.
Missouri Synod Lutherans in Minnesota have also announced that services will resume under similar strictures.
Speaking on Thursday, Archbishop Hebda said that he had not had the opportunity to speak with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in the days leading up to the bishops’ decision, but that he would be doing so on Thursday. Walz said last night that he would be speaking to the state’s bishops alongside state public health authorities.
“These are very challenging times, and I recognize that he has a very difficult job,” Archbishop Hebda said of the governor. “We want to help all of Minnesota get through this pandemic. I look forward to our conversation, but I can tell you I hope the governor changes his mind.”
It is not clear whether priests or bishops who begin celebrating public Masses next week could face civil penalties. Archbishop Hebda said his “hope is that there won’t be a conflict, and that we will come to some kind of agreement.”
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