MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
People will have to wear masks, many pews will be closed, and congregants won't be shaking hands at the sign of peace, but many Detroit-area Catholics can now head back into churches to celebrate Mass, a Mass that will look very different than before the coronavirus outbreak. The Archdiocese of Detroit has given the go-ahead for all Catholic churches in the city of Detroit to resume celebrating public Mass by May 29.
We're going to talk about the balance the archdiocese is trying to strike with Father Stephen Pullis. He is their director of evangelization and missionary discipleship, and he helped craft the reopening guidelines.
Father, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
STEPHEN PULLIS: Thank you so much.
KELLY: Why do you feel it's safe to take this step now? Because I know deaths and the rate of infection remains high in Michigan.
PULLIS: Yeah. You know, we've been following the governor's directives and her guidance about the slow reopening of the economy, different aspects of society. And so following her guidance and kind of the way society has been reopening, we thought now was a good time for the church to begin reopening with some very essential services - not everything the church does, but gathering for Mass, we thought with the right directives, the right guidelines, we could safely do that now.
KELLY: And what is Mass going to look like? I mentioned people will have to wear masks. There's not going to be any shaking of hands. What else will look different?
PULLIS: Yeah, the four key areas where we've said every parish needs to do this is wearing masks, making sure church facilities are properly cleaned - and we look to the CDC for guidance on how to do that, how to sanitize and clean our churches - practicing physical distancing, so keeping 6 feet apart between households, and then limiting the capacity of our churches to 25%. So adhering to those guidelines, the Mass will be the same general aspects with the reading of the Word of God and Holy Communion, but we could have those guidelines to make it safe and for people to gather again.
KELLY: Do you have any concern that this will diminish the experience of Mass?
PULLIS: Well, I think it's not going to be the same because for many people, coming to church is a chance to be part of a community. And certainly with these guidelines, the experience of community will be diminished. So we know it's not perfect, but it's the balance between having access to the sacraments that give us God's grace and promoting and protecting the common good that we have a responsibility to be part of in our society. And so this is the balance we tried to strike.
KELLY: Have you celebrated a Mass yet?
PULLIS: I have not celebrated one publicly, and I will do this weekend. And I'm very, very excited for it.
KELLY: I do have to ask, because there have been reports about churches in other parts of the country that have already reopened, and people came and had services and people got sick, are you worried about that?
PULLIS: You know, there's always a risk and always a concern. And that's why a lot of time and effort and expertise consultation went into these directives. We feel like if masks are worn, if churches are properly cleaned, if we practice physical distancing and we keep capacity at 25% or lower and those who know they are sick stay home, we feel like the risk of doing this is very minimal and that we can safely return to Mass.
KELLY: Father Stephen Pullis of the Archdiocese of Detroit - he helped to draft the guidelines for Detroit-area churches to begin celebrating Mass again.
Father, thanks so much for talking to us.
PULLIS: Thanks for giving me the time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.