Twin Cities Mayors Don’t Want to Let Churches Reopen, Archbishop Hits Back

“Mayor, every day during this pandemic, Catholic Charities has gathered hundreds of people in your city to safely feed them. What makes you think we can’t come up with a safe plan to feed them spiritually? Wish you had asked someone at the Archdiocese,”

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, both Democrats, said in a recent statement that they want churches in their cities to continue to “hold services remotely.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (pictured left) and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (pictured right) issued a join statement Saturday after Gov. Tim Walz announced he would allow churches to resume in-person worship.

“We’ve spoken with faith leaders from across our Twin Cities, and what we’ve heard loud and clear is a strong, unified commitment to protecting the health of their congregations and continuing to hold services remotely,” said the statement. “Any large in-person gathering amid this pandemic puts people at risk.”

“Regardless of your faith and beliefs, we all have a common obligation to our respective communities and congregations. Let’s put their health and safety first,” the statement continued.

Frey and Carter apparently didn’t speak with the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis before issuing their statement, according to a comment from Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

“Mayor, every day during this pandemic, Catholic Charities has gathered hundreds of people in your city to safely feed them. What makes you think we can’t come up with a safe plan to feed them spiritually? Wish you had asked someone at the Archdiocese,” Hebda said on Twitter in response to the statement.

An updated order from Gov. Walz issued Saturday lifts the 10-person cap on church services. Under the new guidelines, places of worship are required to limit occupancy to 25 percent “of the normal occupant capacity as determined by the fire marshal, with a maximum of 250 people in a single self-contained space.”

Walz issued the order after Catholic and Lutheran leaders in the state said they would reopen their churches this week, with or without the governor’s blessing.

Mayor Frey then joined CNN Monday morning and said allowing churches to increase attendance “is a recipe in Minneapolis for a public health disaster.”

“That is not the route that we intend or should be going on right now. We are considering some form of an emergency regulation ourselves to prevent that number of people from gathering in one place,” he revealed, noting that places of worship attract “older, senior citizens” who are “singing and breathing and at times, even with physical distancing, they’re in close proximity to one another.”

Places of worship in Minnesota can open for larger groups beginning Wednesday. President Donald Trump declared all churches “essential” during a Friday press conference and threatened to override governors who don’t comply.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to anthony.gockowski@gmail.com.