New Mexico Catholic Bishop Becomes First to Reauthorize Public Masses

A New Mexico Catholic Bishop has become the first Catholic official in the country to reauthorize the celebration of public masses, which had been cancelled by bishops across the country on account of the national coronavirus epidemic.

Bishop Peter Baldacchino sent a letter to priests of the Diocese of Las Cruces on Wednesday, informing them that they’d be allowed to begin celebrating public masses. The move has a strict condition, however; as Catholic churches are only to hold masses with crowds no greater than five(including the priest) present.

Cancelling Sunday mass is no small matter in the Catholic religion, and Baldacchino pushed back against the notion that his diocese would make the cancellation of public liturgy the new normal.

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.”

The Diocese is continuing to urge Catholics who are senior citizens or who have preexisting health conditions to stay at home and watch live-streamed masses online.

The Bishop also slammed an effort on the part of the State of New Mexico to label churches as non-essential organizations.

I strongly disagree,” he said of the decision.  “Sadly, the Governor is no longer exempting places of worship from the restrictions on ‘mass gatherings.’ It seems to me that while we run a daily count of the physical deaths we are overlooking those who are dead interiorly.

The resumption of public Sunday masses on the part of the Diocese of Las Cruces isn’t being done in a cavalier fashion, especially considering that they’re being limited to groups of the faithful no greater than five people. Governors and public policy makers need to realize that the vast majority of religious organizations have every intention of resuming their operations in a responsible and safe fashion before trying to ban their activity.

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