El Paso, Texas — The Diocese of El Paso announced Tuesday that Catholic churches in El Paso County would be allowed to open for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses, but at a limited capacity.
The diocese cited El Paso's declining Covid-19 cases in making their decision. Active cases dropped below 36,000 on Tuesday for the first time in weeks, while hospitalizations dropped below 500 - the lowest level since October.
"The danger of the presence of this virus in the El Paso community is still of great concern," Bishop Mark Seitz cautioned, but added, "This is not a time for the El Paso community to let its guard down, but the diocese believes that if cases continue their decline, the diocese can safely relax restrictions."
Churches will be allowed to open for masses at 25% capacity, assuming they follow disinfection ad social distancing guidelines set by the diocese.
Funeral services and weddings remain suspended however, the diocese said. Confessions may be heard on schedules set by individual churches.
If there should be a mass scheduled from 10 p.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve, the diocese said it had consulted with the County Judge Ricardo Samaniego's office to exempt those people attending Mass from the curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. that will kick in Dec. 23-26 and Dec. 30 through Jan. 4.
Officials strongly recommended that at-risk persons, including those 65 or older and those with health conditions, avoid attending in-person church events.
In addition, the diocese is still partnering with ABC-7 to televise Christmas Eve mass. A children’s mass will be broadcast live at 5 p.m. on the El Paso Las Cruces CW (7.2). A Christmas Eve mass in English will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. on ABC-7.