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Reopenings: San Francisco Archbishop To Continue Battle With State Over Indoor Worship Limits; 'God Bless Mayor Breed'

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- While saying he was finally at peace with San Francisco Mayor London Breed, outspoken Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone pledged Thursday to continue his battle with state officials over crowd limitations placed on indoor worship services designed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Over the last month, Archbishop Cordileone has gotten into a verbal exchange with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a practicing Catholic, organized a march and rally in San Francisco and appealed to the U.S. Justice Dept. for help.

On Tuesday, San Francisco moved to the moderate orange tier of the state's COVID reopening guidelines. Breed immediately announced that places of worship in the city would be able to reopen at 25% capacity up to 100 people. It was the maximum easing allowed on the state guidelines.

"God bless Mayor Breed for responding to her constituents' call," the archbishop said in a posting on the archdiocese website.

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to Breed saying that the city's current COVID-19 policy allowing only one congregant in places of worship at a time "is contrary to the Constitution and the nation's best tradition of religious freedom."

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The letter came days after San Francisco Catholics staged a large 'Free The Mass' march and rally.

Under the new health order issued Tuesday, singing or chanting will still not be allowed indoors since choirs and singing are a known source of COVID-19 spread. The place of worship must also conduct a health check of patrons before they enter the facility. Face coverings will be required at all times except for brief removal to consume food or drink if it is essential to a ritual or ceremony.

"Reopening indoor restaurants and houses of worship with limited capacity, and creating opportunities for families to safely enjoy outdoor entertainment are a good step on our road to recovery," Breed said. "We are committed to following the data and continuing reopening once our local health indicators demonstrate it is safe to do so."

While happy with the actions by Breed, Archbishop Cordileone said he would continue to put pressure on state officials.

"Our petition effort, though, is not ended," he wrote. "The state of California's limit of no more than 100 people inside of a house of worship regardless of the size of the building is still unjust. We want and we intend to worship God safely: with masks, social distancing, sanitation, ventilation, and other such safety protocols. But we will not accept believers being treated more severely than other, comparable secular activities."

"This movement is not over," he added. "Our work and victories have just begun."

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