Catholic Diocese allowing each church to make own safety rules during COVID rise

Local

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Doctors are urging caution with Christmas church services approaching.

The Catholic Diocese of Austin – with over 100 parishes – said it will be up to each individual church to decide how to proceed with Christmas masses starting Friday.

During a season of togetherness, cheerfulness and worship, St. Mary Catholic Church of Austin parishioner Cherif Gacis and his family walked into church before the Christmas holiday mindful of COVID-19.

“The danger is high, but I feel there are a lot of people throughout the community that are vaccinated or have had the booster,” Gacis said.

The Catholic Diocese has 127 parishes across 25 counties. According to communications director Camille Garcia, protocols may look different at each church. This comes as the more contagious omicron variant causes infections throughout the community.

“We know that some churches are small, others are not, and that each pastor with their staff are making prudential judgment in order to make sure their parishioners are safe,” Garcia said.

Austin Public Health announced this week that omicron is leading variant infections in the county, saying on Wednesday, its seen a 43% increase in cases from the previous week.

That’s not something the Catholic Diocese takes lightly.

“We are though suggesting…individuals to be vaccinated,” Garcia said.

It’s not clear which churches may require masking or social distancing. Gacis plans on taking his own precautions, knowing how much the virus can affect you.

“I did get COVID last year,” Gacis said. “I was sick for 22 days. I did get vaccinated, and I’m getting my booster shot.”

The Texas Legislature passed a bill making it illegal for governments to order houses of worship to close, even during a pandemic.

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