EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso Catholic Diocese is mandating that all church employees get vaccinated against Covid-19, and will require any that any unvaccinated parishioners wear face masks to church services.
The requirements are outlined in a letter from Bishop Mark Seitz that has been circulated throughout the diocese; a copy of that letter was provided to ABC-7 on Wednesday by a diocesan official.
In making his decision to impose these mandates, Seitz cited the impact of the highly infectious Delta variant now circulating across the nation and in the Borderland. Several cases of that variant have been confirmed in El Paso County, with a dozen more pinpointed in neighboring Dona Ana County.
"Reliable reports indicate that more than 90% of those hospitalized with Covid-19 and the Delta variant are unvaccinated. Those who have chosen not to be vaccinated due to the fear of side effects must now recognize that the risk of side effects pales in comparison to the risk of death from the Delta variant," Seitz wrote in his letter.
He explained, "For the sake our brothers and sisters, I am requiring all those who are employed by the Church and all those who perform Church ministries including, but not limited to, catechists and Eucharistic ministers to be vaccinated."
In terms of parishioners, Seitz outlined the following: "I am not requiring those who come to Mass or most other events at Church to be vaccinated, in part because that would exclude most children at this point, since the vaccine is not yet available to them. However, I am requiring those who are unvaccinated (aged 3 or higher) to wear a face mask for their own protection and the protections of those in close contact with them."
The bishop indicated more restrictions could become necessary if the variant continues to spread in the El Paso community. You can read his entire letter below.