St. Cloud bishop requires vaccine for those participating in church camps, programs

Proof of vaccination will also be required for anyone participating or volunteering at a church camp in the diocese.

Background: St. Mary's Cathedral. Right: Bishop Donald Kettler/Diocese of St. Cloud.

A St. Cloud Catholic bishop is requiring participants, including children, who attend church camps to be fully vaccinated.

Bishop Donald Kettler of the Diocese of St. Cloud sent a letter to pastors last week outlining his requirements for day camps, overnight gatherings, and similar events.

The bishop is requiring all “staff, volunteers, and participants attending these programs to be fully vaccinated as a condition of participation.” Proof of vaccination will also be required.

“Those who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and those who choose not to be vaccinated, cannot attend these optional programs of our diocese until further notice,” the letter reads.

“Vaccinations are the best approach for making continued progress against the virus and keeping people as safe as possible from its effects”

Currently, all Minnesotans aged 16 and over are eligible to receive the vaccine. Children 12 years and older can receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Kettler notes in his letter that Pope Francis has approved the use of the vaccine and even encouraged people to get vaccinated “to protect life and care for our neighbors.”

Pastors from individual churches may impose “stricter” measures than what the bishop is requiring, he clarifies in the letter.

Optional programs offered in the diocese provide “important spiritual formation” to both youth and adults, Kettler says, and the Church needs to operate them “as safely as possible” to continue fighting COVID-19.

It is unclear whether this rule means that camps for children under 12 will not be offered this summer.

The bishop sent out a second letter a few days after his initial memo, clarifying that those attending masses are not required to be vaccinated, as some people misinterpreted originally.

In a previous letter dated May 14, Bishop Kettler advised parishioners to encourage their fellow church-goers to get vaccinated.

Choosing to not get vaccinated “not only puts one’s own life at risk but also the lives of others,” Kettler’s May 14 letter says.

He also strongly recommends that those distributing communion be fully vaccinated, so “all feel safe in receiving the sacrament.”