PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Leaders in the Pittsburgh and Greensburg Catholic Dioceses say they are planning to gradually reopen some churches in the area now that much of Southwestern Pennsylvania is moving to the state's "Yellow" phase.
Bishop David Zubik, of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, says churches can begin welcoming in visitors again for private prayer and Reconciliation, as well as small weddings and funerals.
That can happen beginning next Friday, May 15, when the southwestern region enters the "yellow" zone of the state's plan to limit the spread of Coronavirus.
The counties in the diocese moving to "yellow' include, Allegheny, Butler, Greene and Washington. Lawrence County entered the "yellow" zone today.
The only county excluded is Beaver County.
In a press release, Bishop Zubik said, "Although we are all so eager to get back to some sense of normal, we recognize that these sacrifices have been essential to keeping each other safe during this deadly pandemic. I am greatly appreciative of all in our faith community who have shown a great amount of patience during this unprecedented time."
Masses have been held online since the pandemic began, with priests broadcasting before empty pews to faithful at home.
While Bishop Zubik receives constant messages from parishioners pleading for churches to reopen, he feels something extraordinary happening within the faith community during the quarantine.
"I think their faith is becoming deeper," Zubik said. "There's that old expression absence makes the heart grow fonder.
"If we allow God's grace to really touch our hearts, they can deepen our capacity to love and they can deepen the faith and hope that we have in God."
The churches must be cleaned and sanitized first and visitors who enter the sanctuary must wear masks and continue to social distance.
In the Greensburg Diocese, the same rules apply.
The four counties in their diocese, Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland, will all enter the "yellow" phase on May 15 as well.
"We did our part not to overwhelm our hospital systems," Bishop Edward Malesic said in a news release. "We worked to flatten the curve. And we trusted that God would see us through. He has. And we are now ready to move forward with the ongoing help of God."
Those churches will reopen for private prayer, Mass and Reconciliation.
Anyone who is not feeling well is asked to stay home from church.
for more features.