Archdiocese of Chicago, Dioceses of Joliet and Rockford announce plans for gradual reopening

Catholic churches throughout northern Illinois could begin the first of three phases as soon as May 23, per a Wednesday announcement.

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Cardinal Blase Cupich announced Wednesday a plan for Archdiocese of Chicago churches to eventually reopen for masses, weddings, funerals and more.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Catholic churches throughout northern Illinois may soon be permitted to begin a gradual reopening process amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Archdiocese of Chicago, Diocese of Joliet and Diocese of Rockford — which collectively oversee churches in 20 counties throughout the region — announced identical plans Wednesday setting requirements and a timetable for resuming masses, weddings, funerals and other services.

According to the statements released by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, Rockford’s Bishop David Malloy and Joliet’s Apostolic Administrator Richard Pates, the plans were made in conjunction with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The plan outlines three phrases for opening.

Phase 1 would allow groups of no more than 10 people to attend baptisms, reconciliations, wedding and funerals hosted at churches, and could begin as soon as May 23.

Phase 1A would allow groups of no more than 10 to also attend “private prayer and adoration” sessions, and could begin as soon as May 30.

Finally, Phase 2 would permit “reopening for weekday and weekend Masses for larger groups” based on the situation in a given church or parish. No potential start date was given.

In order to initiate the phases, however, the announcement specifies that parishes would need to recruit “non-vulnerable volunteers” to help implement the reopening process, and then train those volunteers through a webinar program beginning next week.

Parishes would ultimately need to receive a “certification of readiness” before entering Phase 1.

The statement also noted on several occasions the “dangerous and fragile” situation that remains in Illinois, which previously prompted the Archdiocese of Chicago and Diocese of Joliet to suspend in-person masses on March 13 and the Diocese of Rockford to do so on March 17 — bans that have still not yet been lifted.

“We expect this situation to continue for some weeks,” Cupich wrote in a Wednesday letter accompanying the plan. “Any plan for reopening our churches for public worship must include every precaution to ensure public gatherings do not create a second wave of contagion, thus squandering the gains made through our sacrifice in these days.”

Cupich also noted that masses streamed online and on television remain available in the meantime through ABC-TV, Univision and Polvision in Chicago, and Malloy noted that Masses are streamed on YouTube within the Diocese of Joliet.

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