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Catholic churches plan to reopen Tuesday, despite state orders

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- When it comes to Minnesota's pandemic response, places of worship feel they are being left out.

"I sure hope the governor changes his mind," Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, Governor Tim Walz announced his latest reopening phase for the state -- places of worship were not included in the plan. Some Minnesota Catholic and Lutheran church leaders say they are planning on opening up anyway, despite orders only allowing up to ten people in a house or place of worship.

Catholic Bishops of Minnesota said, in an announcement Thursday, churches can resume public masses starting Tuesday, May 26, ahead of Pentecost at the end of the month.

"We have really seen people turn to their faith communities during this time of crisis," Becket - Religious Liberty for All Attorney Diana Verm said. "Isolation is so difficult on people."

Representing the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, Verm says what they're asking for is equality.

"As we've seen other openings and plans for other openings in the state, it makes us feel much more comfortable with what we are doing. We see a parallel that's there and we need to be treated equally," Hebda said. "My hope is that there won't be that conflict and we can come to some sort of agreement and that the governor sees the need that is here."

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Signatures from Minnesota bishops across the Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Most Rev. John Quinn.

The mass resumption announcement also came in a letter sent to Gov. Walz, which was signed by Winona-Rochester Diocese Bishop John Quinn. With some retailers already open at 50 percent, the letter cites new safety protocols.

"They've altered their worship services so that they will be able to do it safely with stronger protocols than the malls have," Verm said.

Some of these protocols include only allowing a third of seating, encouraging church members over the age of 65 or with underlying conditions to stay home and maintaining social distancing guidelines.

"Like the lines you see at the supermarket, that is what communion will look like," Hebda said.

Hebda continued, "We have a responsibility to provide spiritual care and religious services to our faith and that responsibility includes doing it a way that's safe."

"Churches are very eager to get back to worship and they are disappointed that the governor has not realized that," Verm said.

Late Thursday afternoon, Hebda met with Walz. It is unclear how that conversation went. The Catholic Bishops of Minnesota's decision is not an order to reopen, but gives each congregation the go-ahead if strict safety protocols are followed. No word from local congregations if they will or will not open its doors to the public come Tuesday.

The one Lutheran denomination that is also allowing services to resume Tuesday is the Missouri Synod.

Beret Leone

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