St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - Catholic Bishops in Minnesota are giving local parishes permission to defy Governor Tim Walz’s pandemic emergency orders.

The parishes have been granted permission from the church leaders to resume offering public Masses next Tuesday to prepare for the celebration of Pentecost on May 31st. The participating parishes will have to follow strict sanitation and social distancing guidelines and limit total attendance to one-third of the capacity of the church. The bishops stress the parishes are not required to offer the Masses and parishioners are still being granted dispensation from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

An open letter from the Bishops expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision to allow additional commerce while continuing to limit religious gatherings to 10 or fewer people. They indicate they have attempted to work collaboratively with Walz and his administration to help strengthen the safety protocols they had developed with the assistance of the Thomistic Institute, which the bishops describe as a team of medical experts and theologians.

The letter notes the six Minnesota dioceses voluntarily suspended the celebration of Mass and other church activities before Governor Walz declared the peacetime emergency and have enthusiastically cooperated in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 while also extending assistance to those in need. It also questions the validity of the governor’s orders to continue limiting religious gatherings to 10 people in light of the changing circumstances surrounding the epidemic, saying it “defies reason” to apply that restriction to a Cathedral with a capacity of several thousand people while shopping malls and other retail businesses are now authorized to operate at 50-percent capacity.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Diocese of Winona-Rochester Bishop John Quinn are among those who signed the letter.

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