Last week Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidelines that provide for houses of worship to conduct religious services inside our churches. Since the specific application of these guidelines is subject to the provisions of each county, we waited to ascertain information for both San Diego and Imperial County before communicating with you.

Parishes in San Diego County may begin holding Masses inside their churches tomorrow. All religious services inside must observe social distancing and include no more than 100 participants. The steps that parishes implemented in the initial period of limited worship in our churches during May and June should be reinstated for indoor worships (including the universal use of masks, no physical expression of the Sign of Peace, Communion only in the hand, and careful traffic patterns for Communion). The distribution of the Eucharist may take place in the normal place of the Mass or at the end of Mass, as the parish chooses.

Pastors may also continue to celebrate the Eucharist outdoors as they have been doing in recent months. There is no aggregate limit on outside congregations, but social spacing is mandatory, as are the use of masks, the prohibitions of the Sign of Peace, the distribution of Communion only in the hand and careful traffic patterns.

In talking with several pastors, it is clear to me that parishes will make different choices in San Diego County on whether to hold Mass inside, outside or both in the coming weeks. Pastors should make the choice that best fits their physical situation and community desires.

Imperial County is to issue new provisions for outdoor worship soon. For that reason, we will discuss all of the options and reach a consensus of how to proceed.

The universal dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Eucharist continues throughout the diocese. Livestream Masses should continue wherever possible as they have become a spiritual lifeline for our elderly and vulnerable populations.

I know that the frequency of changes in liturgical regulations during this period of pandemic has been hard on pastors, parish staff and you and your community. I commend the pastors for the magnificent efforts they have undertaken to serve our people and bring them the sacramental life of the Church. Their creativity, energy and commitment have been edifying.

Today marks the general opening for in-person classes throughout San Diego County. I believe that this will be a great boost for our students in their learning and formation and for the parent communities. But I am also aware that this brings new burdens of vigilance for our teachers, principals and school staffs.

The above comes from a Sept. 1 letter issued by Bishop McElroy of San Diego.