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Despite Iowa Governor Reynolds lifting the restrictions on religious gatherings, the churches across the state will continue to practice social distancing. A joint statement was made by several denominational leaders across the state and a separate statement was made by Catholic church leaders on Tuesday.

According to our news partner Local 4 News, denominational leaders of all faiths signed this letter that says,

As denominational leaders in the Christian tradition, we are united in our concern regarding Governor Kim Reynolds’ declaration to allow spiritual and religious gatherings in Iowa.

It was with surprise we learned of the Governor’s proclamation and, as such, we feel compelled to provide clarity and guidance of what it means for congregations to be faithful and safe during these extraordinary times.

In the spirit of ecumenism, we join together in asking congregations and members across the state to take faithful action by refraining from in-person religious gatherings, including worship. We encourage and hope that congregations will worship and gather in community from afar continuing the use of technology and other means. Decisions to return to in-person gatherings in our congregations should be based on science, the best practices recommended by public health officials, and in consultation with the leaders of our faith communities.

It is by our faith that we are compelled to love our neighbor. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that love comes to expression by remaining physically apart. Loving our neighbor, and thereby the whole community, includes putting public health and the well being of others ahead of the natural desire to be physically present together in community and in worship.

As faith leaders, our hearts grieve for the immense pain and suffering felt by so many during these times. Whether mourning the loss of a loved one who has died from the coronavirus; facing the economic stress due to the loss of employment, business, or income; feeling isolated or alone; experiencing the stress of managing children and work from home; carrying the burden of uncertainty from the disaster and when a new normal may emerge, we pray you might find strength and hope in God’s unending and ever-present love.

For the sake of the common good, we ask all congregations, their leaders, and their members to prioritize the safety and well being of each other, those at particular risk, and those in their broader community. Please love one another and your neighbor by continuing to be in community together from afar.

This letter was signed by 21 religious leaders including Bishop Thomas R. Zinkula of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport.

Bishop Thomas R. Zinkula also signed a jointed statement by bishops across the state of Iowa in regards to Catholic masses, respectively.

In the joint statement with the 3 other bishops in Iowa, the release says that Catholic masses will continue to be suspended, despite Gov. Reynolds social distancing lift on religious gatherings.

In light of the expectation that positive cases of COVID-19 will peak in Iowa in the next few weeks, we have decided it would be most prudent for now to continue to follow the liturgical restrictions we have in place, including the suspension of public Masses. Without an effective vaccine or widespread testing and contact data that justifies a
change in course, we simply are not at a place where we can resume our previous prayer practices.

The suspension of the Sunday Mass obligation remains in effect statewide, and all vulnerable persons, the sick, and those may who have been exposed to the virus are asked to look after their own welfare with the support of those who care for them. We ask parish, school and diocesan staff to continue to minister to the faithful, and the faithful to each other, in ways other than meeting in groups during this difficult time of the pandemic. We strongly encourage parishioners to visit the website and social media outlets of the parishes and schools to stay in touch aswe look forward to gathering in person.

We will continue to closely monitor the statewide and respective regional situations through the weeks of May and beyond. When the time comes that we can gather in greater numbers while observing social distance, safe hygienic practices and other precautions without placing one another at serious risk, public Masses and other sacramental celebrations will be allowed to resume.

The statement was signed by Most Rev. Michael Jackels Archbishop of Dubuque, Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless Bishop of Sioux City, Most Rev. Thomas Zinkula Bishop of Davenport, and Most Rev. William Joensen Bishop of Des Moines.