Dear brother and sisters,
As we all are going through these challenging times, I just wanted to spend some time with you sharing what is the current situation regarding the celebration of Sacraments in our parishes. It’s been very challenging for me, personally, and for my brother bishops and priests not to be able to have the celebration of Mass in a normal way.
And also it’s been very challenging to have to postpone the celebration of celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation during this time. And not be able to be present for the entire Church in the celebration of Sacraments like Baptism and Confession, especially the celebration of funerals where we have the sadness and passing of one of our loved ones.
And I know that this has also been extremely difficult for all of you. We all want to be together, I shared with you several times how difficult it is for me to celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels just by myself and two or three people that are with me. When it is a beautiful Cathedral and what makes the Cathedral even more beautiful is the presence of so many faithful that want to come and celebrate with us — Holy Mass and the other liturgical celebrations that we have here.
But, I think we all have to understand that the reason that we have to do that is because we care for one another. The reality of this coronavirus pandemic is that it is a very dangerous illness and the virus is easy to be passed to one another. We didn’t know exactly what was the reality and we started seeing the consequences of so many people dying and so many people getting sick, so that’s why we had to be extremely careful in taking care of one another.
The situation is not over yet. As we can see, even this week the number of cases of people infected in Los Angeles County, and sadly the people who have died this week — the number are still very high.
In the other two counties of the Archdiocese, Ventura and Santa Barbara, the numbers are not as big as the ones in Los Angeles County. But it is still a very contagious illness.
That’s why my brother bishops and myself together with a council of priests, we decided to follow the indications of the city and county health officials in Los Angeles and in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, with the reality of having to close the churches.
But, as we are saying every day, the building are closed but our parishes are open. We had the celebration of Mass for all of you through the internet in many parishes of the Archdiocese and we are trying to be present to all of you sacramentally in that virtual world in which we are able to celebrate Mass.
We hope that that reality is going to change soon.
I think it’s clear to all of us that it might be possible in the coming future to be able to open physically the churches and receive parishioners to come. It’s not going to be the same in the beginning because there is the reality of the social distance and also making sure that the churches are sanitized and people are protected when they come to church.
And I insist that that’s the most important thing — that we protect one another. We know that God is with us but at the same time we have to be careful and make sure that we protect each other in this challenging time.
So, at the same time, I’ve been working really hard with the city officials, the county officials, and the state officials to help them to understand what is the importance of the presence of God in our lives and how beautiful it is for us to come to church. And especially for us Catholics to have the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
This makes a huge difference. I think the officials are, little by little, understanding better what is that urgent reality. And I also tried to explain to them that we have the protocols and everything that is necessary to make sure that there is protection for anyone coming to church — the Catholic Church in these three counties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
So, let us keep praying. Let us keep working together. I’m really hopeful that things are going to change really soon. I need your support and your prayers because, obviously, we need to come to that moment where we can safely open our churches to continue the celebration of the Sacraments that are so essential for us.
We have talked many times how important it is — daily Mass. How important it is — Sunday Mass. How beautiful it is to be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we receive the forgiveness of our sins and new grace to continue our Christian life in the middle of the world.
So, as I said, I am totally committed to keep working together with my auxiliary bishops and the council of priests of the Archdiocese and all the priests and all of you — that if we work together, we pray together, and we give priority to protecting one another in this challenging situation, we can see that the churches are going to be open very soon.
So let’s keep praying for that. You are in my prayers in a special way and I ask your prayers for my ministry here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. And let you allow me to give you a special blessing today:
May Almighty God bless each one of you, your families, during this challenging time and especially as we, this Sunday, celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord and next Sunday the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day.
May Mary our Blessed Mother intercede for all of those in this special moment.