Catholic bishops in Chicago, Joliet, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield announce church reopening plans
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Catholic bishops in Chicago, Joliet, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield announce church reopening plans

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CHICAGO — The Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as the dioceses of Rockford, Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield, announced phased plans to begin reopening Catholic churches, starting in Chicago with small gatherings for baptisms, weddings, funerals and confession as early as May 23.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been under increasing pressure in recent days as smaller churches have sued the state, trying to lift the almost two-month-old stay-at-home order’s application to religious gatherings. The governor added “free exercise of religion” as an essential activity to his revised stay-at-home order late April 30, after a rural church filed suit against the plan, and Catholic leaders soon after said they were working on a plan to reopen churches. The Catholic bishops reached an agreement with the state Wednesday, according to letters posted on their dioceses’ websites.

In the Archdiocese of Chicago, smaller gatherings could start as soon as May 23, depending on preparations in each parish. But because “our movements will be restricted as that plan unfolds in different phases, your pastors and bishops will continue for the present time to offer Mass in private each day and to livestream" Masses, Cardinal Blase Cupich said in his letter.

Public adoration of the Eucharist and the reopening of churches for private prayer could begin as soon as May 30, according to Cupich. It’s unclear when regular Masses would begin again, because that will depend on lifting state and local gathering restrictions, according to the letter.

The other dioceses, which cover all of northern Illinois including suburban Chicago outside Cook and Lake counties, will follow slightly different schedules. In the Diocese of Rockford, small Masses could begin May 25, while the dioceses of Joliet and Peoria’s anticipated openings follow the same dates as those in the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to letters from those dioceses’ bishops.

In Springfield, churches have been open for private prayer and confession and gatherings of fewer than 10 people for events such as funerals and weddings, at least since Pritzker’s revised stay-at-home order was extended. And as of last week, the faithful have begun receiving Holy Communion, according to a letter from Bishop John Paprocki posted on the Springfield website.

Plans for the dioceses of Belleville have not yet been posted on the website.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Pritzker’s office has been in talks with other denominations and faiths about reopening other religious institutions.

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