Archbishop Alexander Sample
Archbishop Alexander Sample
Late last month Archbishop Alexander Sample changed directives for Mass attendance, increasing previous capacity limits while reaffirming other safety protocols.

The changes came after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown indicated state directives for religious gatherings are no longer legal requirements but instead public health recommendations. Her office notified the Archdiocese of Portland of the changes, and the archbishop made his announcement just before Christmas.

Archbishop Sample said Catholic parishes now may accommodate “as many people as possible in both church buildings and satellite locations, while strictly maintaining 6 foot distancing, up to 50% of the fire marshal’s maximum capacity for the space.”

“This is a wonderful Christmas gift from God to his people,” the archbishop said in the Dec. 21 statement.

Under the state’s rules-turned-guidelines, religious gatherings are to be limited to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer, for counties considered to be a high risk for COVID-19. As of mid-January, most of Oregon was considered “high risk” or “extreme risk.”

The archbishop said in his statement that mask-wearing continues to be required and cleaning protocols must be maintained. Sign-ups for Masses are no longer required, but he said parishes may need to maintain a sign-up system “to control parishioner numbers and expectations.” Sign-ups are left to the pastor’s discretion.

Contact information for Mass participants is no longer required and does not need to be maintained for 60 days.

So far, no COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced to Catholic parishes, though several priests have contracted the virus.