L.A. Diocese, others await governor's guidance for reopening churches

As churches statewide look forward to guidance Monday from Gov. Gavin Newsom on how they can reopen, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez is cautioning that reopening houses of worship will require planning and caution.

The coronavirus remains "a very dangerous illness,'' Gomez said in a video message posted this weekend.

'The situation is not over yet,'' he said. "Even this week the number of cases of people infected in Los Angeles County -- and sadly the people who have died this week -- the number are still very high.''

"It's been very challenging for me, personally, and for my brother bishops and priests not to be able to have the celebration of Mass in a normal way,'' Gomez said.

The archbishop has been celebrating Mass in an empty Cathedral of Our
Lady of the Angels since shutdown orders went into effect in March. "It is a
beautiful cathedral,'' he said, "and what makes the cathedral even more
beautiful is the presence of so many faithful that want to come and celebrate
with us.''

RELATED: Some churches will reopen, they say with or without Gov. Newsom’s permission

Gomez said he looks forward to the church reopening soon.

"Let us keep praying, let us keep working together,'' the archbishop said. "I am really hopeful that things are going to change really soon. I need your support and your prayers because, obviously, we need to come to that moment where we can safely open our churches to continue the celebration of the Sacraments that are so essential for us. If we work together, we pray together, and we give priority to protecting one another in this challenging situation, we can see that the churches are going to be open very soon.''

 Newsom has said the state will issue guidelines by Monday for the reopening of churches and other houses of worship across the state, despite President Donald Trump's insistence that they be allowed to reopen immediately for in-person services.

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Newsom said the state has been "working with the faith community to advance the efforts to begin to put out guidelines, processes and procedures to (protect the) health and safety of congregants and parishioners.''

"We've been working throughout the interfaith community ... all up and down the state, working on the differentiation, the large mega-churches versus more neighborhood-style churches and different styles of pews and sanitation protocols, synagogues versus working with other faiths. We've been working on those sectoral guidelines and we are just days away, at the latest on Monday, we will put out those guidelines.''

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

Newsom's comments last week came hours after Trump held a news conference deeming houses of worship to be "essential,'' and saying he would
override governors of states that refuse to allow them to open immediately.

"Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential,'' Trump said. "It's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.''