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Catholic Diocese Makes Plans For Celebrants to Safely Observe Advent

Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg says the period leading to Christmas Day typically is a busy one for the faithful.
Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg says the period leading to Christmas Day typically is a busy one for the faithful.

The Advent season typically sees increased attendance at Catholic churches, leading up to the celebration of Christmas.

Like most things in 2020, COVID-19 is affecting how houses of worship will hold church services during Advent.

Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg says the period leading to Christmas Day typically is a busy one for the faithful.

"Recognizing that Christmas, many more people will come to church, I've asked our pastors to consider adding an additional mass or two or having current masses going on at the same time but in a different location, maybe in the parish center,” he said. “And some of our parishes will be having mass outside."

Parkes says even though state guidance allows full capacity for worship, the Diocese will continue to limit attendance in their churches to 50 percent. They'll also ask parishioners to wear face masks.

Since reopening churches in May, the Diocese has seen a gradual increase in the number of people coming to church each week during the pandemic.

"The history during this year, has shown that church is probably one of the safest places relative to going to the store, or going out to a restaurant," said Parkes. “The reason I say that is because of the very carefully thought out protocols that we put in place when we started publicly gathering once again."

And he says with news of a coming vaccine, his Christmas prayer will be one of hope.

"I believe in the power of prayer,” he said. “And I think at this particular Christmas, and this year, it’s an opportunity for us to pray that next year 2021, will be a much better year than this year, a year filled with promise and good health."

The Diocese of St. Petersburg comprises over 74 parishes in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties.

The Bishop will celebrate Christmas Eve Mass from the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg at 10:00 p.m. Thursday. The Mass will be livestreamed.

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