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Diocese of Austin: Parishes can resume public masses May 5, but they must follow guidelines

Baptisms, reconciliation and funerals can also resume.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Diocese of Austin announced on Thursday, April 30, that Catholic Masses will resume next week. Masses have been suspended since March 17.

This comes after Gov. Abbott released his phased plan to gradually reopen the state of Texas.

"This past month or so has really shown me how easy it is to take for granted something like going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist, so just a greater appreciation for it," said Tanner Giles ahead of attending Monday afternoon Mass in Downtown Austin. 

The diocese, which is under the leadership of Bishop Joe Vásquez, notified parishes they can resume public Masses on May 5.

"For many of these people, they haven’t really been inside of a church for maybe four to six weeks. They’re very grateful to be back inside a church and experience the physical nature of our faith, to be able to go somewhere, set apart for God, with other people together," said Father Daniel Liu. "They’ve watched on TV maybe, they’ve done it in their houses, but to get out and do it with other people and be able to do it in a sacred place seems very refreshing for them."

RELATED: Texas barbershops, salons may reopen May 8; gyms reopen May 18, Gov. Abbott says

Vásquez said those who are sick, 65 or older and those who have been advised to not attend Mass by their health care providers are exempt from attending Sunday Mass.

“Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for your continued prayers, fidelity and patience during this unprecedented time in history. Throughout this difficult time, God continues to accompany us; let us turn to Him to strengthen our faith and have confidence in his compassionate love for us,” Bishop Vásquez said in a letter to the faithful. “This has also been a trying time for our priests, so I ask you to please join me in praying for them as they continue to serve you faithfully and in creative ways. Let us also remember in our prayers those who care for the sick and for those who are providing necessary services for the common good.”

Here are some safety precautions parishes must follow, according to Diocese of Austin:

  • All attendees should maintain six feet of distance between each other, except for members of the same family or household.
  • Those who are sick or over the age of 65 should not attend Mass.
  • Parishes should continue to broadcast or live stream at least one Mass each weekend for those who are unable to attend or promote another broadcast or live stream Mass.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are to be provided at entrances and for liturgical and altar ministers.
  • The faithful are encouraged to wear facemasks during the liturgy.
  • Pews and regularly touched surfaces should be disinfected after each Mass.
  • Liturgical and hospitality ministers should be trained to follow new protocols and signs should be posted to remind parishioners of the hygiene protocols.

Bishop Vásquez released the following statement: 

"Reopening will be done in a careful and phased manner, following Governor Abbott’s recommendations to businesses and institutions. I have provided our priests with protocols to guide them with the necessary steps to reopen. I am confident that our priests will be careful and measured in implementing these protocols."

Baptism, reconciliation and funerals can also resume.

WATCH: Central Texas churches struggle with donations during COVID-19 pandemic

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