First US Catholic Bishop Lifts Ban On Public Masses

Eric Scheiner | April 16, 2020
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The Catholic News Agency is reporting that Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has lifted a diocesan ban on the public celebration of Mass.

‘We [as priests] have been called by Christ and ordained to serve the people of the Diocese of Las Cruces, to bring them hope and consolation during this difficult time,’ Bishop Peter Baldacchino wrote in a letter dated April 15 and obtained by CNA.

The announcement came days after New Mexico's governor banned gatherings of more than 5 people, a restriction Baldacchino said priests must observe, even as the bishop expressed his objection to it.

The April 14th letter also states, “It has become increasingly clear that the state shutdown will last for some time. Depriving the faithful of the nourishment offered through the Eucharist was indeed a difficult decision, one that I deemed necessary until I had further clarity regarding our current state of affairs, but it cannot become the status quo for the foreseeable future.”

Provisions for priests to resume weddings and funerals in accordance with state regulations on social distancing are also addressed in the letter, granting permission for them to be held outside on Church property.

“In the events of these days and weeks the Lord is calling us out of our comfort zone, he is calling us to seek new ways to reach the people. In addition to this mission with which we are entrusted, we also have the mission to keep people safe. The two must be equally pursued,” Baldacchino said.