Marking the Assumption of Mary, Archbishop Cordileone Gets Creative Amid COVID Limits

As California faces another wave of lockdowns and restrictions, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco is making the sacraments available to the faithful any way he can.

Archbishop Cordileone on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption celebrating Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2020.
Archbishop Cordileone on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption celebrating Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2020. (photo: Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco )

As the state of California has reverted back to more stringent regulations given the coronavirus health crisis, another crisis — one of faith — has resurfaced entering the lives of many Catholics starving for the sacraments including the most Holy Eucharist. In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, three counties have been placed on a ‘watchlist’ that closed churches to indoor services. The first phase of lockdown in California began in mid-March, leaving the Faithful only with Livestream. For a short time beginning in mid-June, churches were granted the ability to open for indoor services at 25 percent capacity or 100 people before a new wave of lockdown orders were issued. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is now taking matters into his own hands, creatively finding ways to maximize opportunities for the Faithful to attend Mass.

Speaking in a video released by the Archdiocese over the weekend, the Archbishop said:

“As Catholics, we have a sacramental vision of the world and we see the church building as not just a practical matter of convenience—to be able to be inside and protected from the elements—the Church has a sacramental significance. It symbolizes the Church that is the people of God. As St. Peter says, ‘Built up of living stones.’ It is the essence of the Church that we gather for worship.”

On Saturday, Aug. 15, marking the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the Archbishop along with the help of 4 other priests, celebrated multiple Masses, each with the maximum allowance of 12 people, outdoors on the plaza of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

“There’s plenty of room to have multiple Masses at the same time. The thought came to my mind because I envisioned many people on the plaza. Even if they cannot be at the same Mass worshipping together, they can worship together in smaller groups.”

Many Catholics in San Francisco were able to take part including a couple overjoyed with the opportunity to mark the feast day, exclaiming, “Praise God! This is what I have been waiting for.”

Calling the day a joyous one, Archbishop Cordileone says the witness of faith is more crucial than ever right now given the pandemic and isolated lockdown. “This is a way we can publicly manifest our faith and give expression to our faith in greater numbers so the world can be reminded of the importance of the centrality of God to our society.”

Recognizing how secularized the world has become, the Archbishop says there’s only one way forward: “Whenever a society or a nation turns its back on God or denies God, it always begins to corrupt and eventually fall apart. So we need to reclaim God at the center of our society.”

In the video, the Archbishop also mentions a discrepancy he sees with how people of faith are being treated by local and state governments, drawing attention to the recent fight in Nevada that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

“We also see it in the ways in which the health orders in certain parts of the state including here in San Francisco are being unequally applied. Certain types of activities especially religious activities being more greatly restricted than other types of secular activities. We’ve seen this elsewhere as well, we’ve seen it in Nevada where casinos are allowed to operate and churches cannot still have indoor services…This is just one example of what happens when we remove God from the center of our society.”

Dioceses within the state of California and across the nation are facing similar restrictions and challenges due to recent upticks in the coronavirus, leading governments to reassess lockdown measures. Despite the frustration that comes along with the disparity between religious gatherings and other social events, Archbishop Cordileone reminds us all that we must stay true to our faith in the midst of this adversity, and also make our voices known to those in positions of power about the importance of having church doors open.

“As Catholics, we need to ask, first of all, God for the grace to bear this patiently and with integrity. It would not be right for us to lash out in retaliation—certainly would not be right for us to violate health orders that could worsen the spread of the coronavirus—but we also need to lobby our government leaders and make our voices heard that we want to simply be treated equally to everyone else. Worship is a first amendment issue—it’s on the primary rights, visions of the founding of this country, that the state would not interfere in the affairs of the Church, and the Church also has no authority to run the state."

In the meantime, the Archbishop of San Francisco has made the Feast of the Assumption a wonderful celebration of faith and will continue to find ways to bring the sacraments to the faithful despite the roadblocks and hurdles. Archbishop Cordileone says it’s not perfect, but the Church has endured much more and will persevere.

“It’s not an adequate substitute but we do what we can under the circumstances in which we find ourselves as the Church has always done throughout her history.”

God bless you Archbishop Cordileone! 

Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks with St. John Paul II in San Francisco, Calif., in 1978.

A True Shepherd

EDITORIAL: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone responded to the death of political adversary Dianne Feinstein with charity and graciousness, as befits all Catholics.