CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Archdiocese on Wednesday released a multi-phase plan to reopen Roman Catholic churches amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan was developed by bishops of the Chicago Province along with state and local public health officials and civil authorities.
Phase I in the plan allows for parishes to reopen for Baptism, Reconciliation, Weddings and Funerals with a limit of 10 attendees. Phase IA follows allowing churches to open for private prayer and adoration, again with no more than 10 people.
It is expected that all parishes could reopen May 23 for Phase I and May 30 for Phase IA if they so choose, the Archdiocese said.
Phase II allows for weekday and weekend masses for larger groups depending on state guidelines and church capacities. A date for that has not been specified.
At each phase, a certification of readiness to reopen will be required of each parish.
There will be a review of the plan at each stage with an eye toward adjustments.
Church officials noted as of Wednesday, the current situation in Illinois remained “dangerous and fragile” and a second more virulent wave remains a threat. The Archdiocese said calling on each church member to take personal responsibility for their own safety and that of others.
“We must be honest. We expect this situation to continue for some weeks, and any plan for reopening our churches for public worship must include every precaution to ensure public gatherings do not create a second wave of contagion, thus squandering the gains made through our sacrifice in these days,” Blase Cardinal Cupich said in an open letter.
The Archdiocese also emphasized that a robust communications effort is needed to inform parishes and parishioners of the plan, and non-vulnerable volunteers need to be recruited for that effort.
Those volunteers will begin training via a webinar on May 18.