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Hope on the horizon even as indoor Masses suspended once again

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SAN DIEGO — Though the diocese once more moved all Masses outdoors in mid-November, in response to the spike in cases across the region, there is “comfort by the hope that lies ahead.”

San Diego County on Nov. 10 moved to the most restrictive purple tier under California’s COVID-19 reopening plan. As a result, Bishop Robert W. McElroy asked pastors to suspend all indoor Masses in the county for at least three weeks, including funerals and weddings, starting on Nov. 14.

Many pastors already were holding many of their Masses outdoors, particularly on Sundays, so the latest directive was not as disruptive as earlier ones this year. Mass attendance has dropped off significantly from pre-COVID levels across the diocese.

“We’re really down,” said Father Efraín Bautista, in between Sunday Masses on Nov. 15 at Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita. “I think we still have a lot of people that are scared and afraid to leave their homes.”

To serve those individuals, many parishes continue to livestream their daily and Sunday Masses through their websites and social media channels. The diocese continues to livestream Sunday Masses in English and Spanish through its website, sdcatholic.org.

The faithful should check the parish website for updates on annual holiday celebrations, given the likelihood the restrictions will stretch beyond Christmas.

Though indoor Masses are temporarily suspended, the diocese and parish offices remain open. And the diocese’s schools in San Diego County also remain open for in-person and online instruction.

In a letter to the diocese’s priests sent Nov. 13, Bishop McElroy acknowledged “the heavy burden that (coronavirus) spread brings upon you as pastors of souls and upon the parish staffs and lay leadership.”

“But I am comforted by the hope that lies ahead,” he continued. “We stand on the cusp of Advent … waiting for the coming of God’s deliverance from every form of suffering in our lives and in our world.

“And in this particular Advent, we as a Church and as a world have been given the first sign of our deliverance from the scourge of COVID in the tremendous progress on the development of a vaccine.”

He was referring to the vaccine developed by Pfizer in partnership with a German company BioNTech that showed more than 90 percent effectiveness in initial trial results. Since that news, a second drugmaker, Moderna, announced that its vaccine also showed high effectiveness in clinical trials.

If those results hold up, the FDA would still need to approve these vaccines before they are cleared for emergency use, starting with the most vulnerable populations, such as healthcare workers and nursing home patients.

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