PITTSBURGH — For Christians around the world, Holy Week is one of the most sacred times of the year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s celebrations and services were scaled back and streamed through social media sites.
This year, churches are welcoming back their followers with strict guidelines in-place.
In Pittsburgh, Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik celebrated Holy Thursday mass inside St. Paul’s Cathedral.
In preparation for Holy Week, volunteers spent hours sanitizing pews and surfaces to make the cathedral as safe as possible.
“A year ago we weren’t able to do any of this,” said Bishop David Zubik.
Bishop Zubik, like many other religious leaders around southwestern Pennsylvania, closed churches and chapels, to keep the public safe.
The bishop moved masses to television and streaming services, including Channel 11.
This year, the diocese is welcoming back the community, with a 75% capacity limits.
“It’s a credit to so many people who have worked hard in the church, serving the needs of people done a great job providing opportunities for people to come back to church; and grateful for everyone who has worked in the field of science to give people a margin of greater safety than we had,” said Bishop Zubik.
The diocese is urging people to check with their parishes to find out the plans put in place by their pastor.
Many churches are requiring reservations for in-person masses and inviting the community to join through streaming services when capacity is full.
“Important part is people check with their parishes, so they are not disappointed. Know exactly what they arrangements are to go to their particular churches,” said Bishop Zubik.
A recent Gallop poll suggests church attendance is at an all-time low; with only 47% of Americans saying they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque.
Bishop Zubik tells Channel 11 he is preparing for Easter weekend filled with hope.
“From my perspective the light is at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope there is not a resurgence of the virus and we take the steps we need to take to keep people safe,” said Bishop Zubik.
The diocese is encouraging people who feel sick or have compromised immune systems to celebrate Easter mass online.