Arizona Catholic Diocese First To Shut Down Again Because Of Coronavirus Spread

( Catholic churches in the Tucson, Arizona, region will close once again because of the recent rapid spread of coronavirus in the state.

The Diocese of Tucson became the first Catholic diocese in the country to suspend is public worship again after the recent uptick in cases in Arizona. In a statement, Bishop Edward Weisenburger wrote:

“I wish to inform you that after a careful review of the medical situation, and hearing the recent concerns of our Governor and civic leaders on television, I have been advised by Diocesan leadership to suspend public worship. This returns us temporarily to those protocols we were following just prior to the reopening of our parishes.

“You should anticipate a suspension of approximately four weeks, but the matter will be reviewed daily and the suspension could be for a shorter or longer duration.”

In light of Arizona recently recording more than 4,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day, Republican Governor Doug Ducey has ordered all bars, gyms, water parks, cinemas and nightclubs to close. He has also banned any gathering that has more than 50 people.

“The expectation is that our numbers next week will be worse,” Ducey said at a press conference earlier this week, and that Arizona wouldn’t be “going back to normal any time soon.”

Weisenburger also addressed congregants through a recorded video statement, asking people in the Diocese of Tucson to “join with your local parish for televised or internet Masses, or log onto the Diocese of Tucson web page and join me for daily Mass.”

Weisenburger did say that people could still receive sacraments in certain situations, explaining:

“Where it is safe, pastors will arrange for an outdoor distribution of Holy Communion after members of the faithful have observed a Mass via technology. Confessions will be heard only out-of-doors. The only public Masses will be funerals and weddings, and with a limit of ten persons in the congregation.

“Let us pray that this suspension is brief and that we can soon be in one another’s company. Let us also be unified in our resolve to lead the way in battling this pandemic. The witness and example of our lives and the intensity of our prayers will surely help to heal the world.”

Catholic diocese and other religious congregations in other parts of the country may soon follow suit and shut their doors temporarily to in-person worship, as the Diocese of Tucson has done. Some may make this determination on their own, while others may be forced into doing so by their state’s government.

With the coronavirus hitting record numbers in large parts of the country — especially southern and western states — state and local governments have begun to take action to rollback re-opening plans. If they once again re-institute limits on indoor gatherings across the board, then religious congregations may not have any choice but to transition, once again, to completely remote and online worship until the situation gets better.