L.A. Archdiocese could resume daily Mass, scheduled confessions next week

Francisco Lorenzo prays in front of the closed doors of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles on April 21.
Francisco Lorenzo prays in front of the closed doors of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles on April 21.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As California rolls back coronavirus-related restrictions on houses of worship, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has released guidelines to reopen churches for private prayer and public Mass as early as next week.

Under the guidance released Tuesday, parishes must receive their regional bishop’s approval for reopening after meeting safety criteria to prevent crowding and physical contact as much as possible.

“As we enter this new moment, it is important to remember that the coronavirus is still out there, it is still contagious and it is still dangerous,” Archbishop José H. Gomez wrote in a letter to parishes. “So, we need to proceed with prudence and caution and concern to protect our most vulnerable parishioners. Let us continue to pray and stand together with our people as we begin to reopen our churches and our society.”


Churches in the archdiocese — which covers Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties — have been closed since March 24 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

L.A. archdiocese closes all churches in hopes of easing coronavirus danger

Even with the new guidelines, the earliest Sunday that Masses could resume would be June 7, officials said.

“The faithful will remain dispensed from any obligation to attend Mass on Sunday because of the continuation of restricted attendance,” according to the guidelines.

Under new state guidelines released earlier this week, houses of worship must limit total attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower.

California has released new coronavirus health guidance for religious services, limiting total attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity.

The L.A. Archdiocese’s idea is to open churches gradually, starting with allowing personal private prayer.

To do so, churches would have to be deep cleaned and must provide hand sanitizer for all visitors and take steps to minimize contact points — such as removing hymnals from pews and keeping holy water containers empty.

Visitors should wear face coverings, according to the archdiocese, and wash and sanitize their hands.

Church employees or volunteers also should be on hand to open doors for visitors, ensure that social distancing is being observed and keep track of how many people are inside to make sure occupancy is within the allowable limits.

The state’s plan will alter religious services in dramatic ways, and it’s unlikely to end the push by some churches to allow more regular worship operations.

The archdiocese’s reopening plan would allow priests to resume offering daily Mass and scheduled confessions with strict social distancing guidelines as early as June 3. Other church activities, such as baptism and confirmation, and religious celebrations for families like weddings, funerals and quinceañeras also could take place at that point.

Churches would need to update their operational plans to reflect additional requirements — such as designating different doors as entrances and exits, replacing choirs with a cantor and accompanist, dismissing people in smaller groups after Mass to maintain social distancing and having priests sanitize their hands before and after giving Communion.