On Friday, New Mexico eliminated its COVID-19 restrictions on indoor worship services, meaning that church congregations can meet at full capacity again.
Despite the resumption of services at full capacity, the order strongly encouraged houses of worship to have decreased capacity levels during indoor services. Nora Meyers Sackett, the press secretary for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, explained that the order came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the restrictions were likely unconstitutional.
"This change was made in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that enjoin states from enforcing capacity limits on churches that are more restrictive than other entities like factories and schools," Sackett wrote in a statement, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
"Nonetheless, houses of worship are strongly encouraged to protect their congregants and communities by enacting social distancing measures to bolster public health and minimize risk of viral spread of their own accord," she added.
In a news release by The Diocese of Las Cruces, which directs Catholic churches across southern New Mexico, the diocese plans to lift its restrictions on worship services, permitting priests the authority to call for capacities.
"Bishop Peter Baldacchino has removed the restrictions on Mass attendance and will continue to leave it in the capable hands of the priests in the diocese to celebrate Masses, funerals, and weddings at the capacity which they deem prudent ….", the Diocese stated on Friday.
The news release added that Catholics are still dispensed from the obligation of Sunday Mass, and those at risk of COVID-19 are encouraged to stay home and watch the Masses from a livestream.
"As the reality of the faithful community continues to change with more parishioners becoming increasingly vaccinated, the diocese will continue to implement reasonable precautions such as stressing the importance of social distancing and mask-wearing," the release stated.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.