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San Francisco Catholics Stage 'Free The Mass' March; Demand Easing Of COVID Limits Placed On Worship Services

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Led by outspoken San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, hundreds of Catholics marched in San Francisco Sunday, demanding city health officials ease COVID restrictions on public indoor religious services.

Three separate marches began at St. Anthony of Padua Church, St. Dominic Church and St. Patrick Church early Sunday morning. Demonstrators made their way to join up with Archbishop Cordileone at San Francisco's City Hall and then to joint marched to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone Leads March on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020 at St. Mary's Cathedral
Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone leads marchers Sept. 20, 2020 at St. Mary's Cathedral. (CBS)

They were told to wear masks and be socially distanced.

Archbishop Cordileone authored an op-ed piece in the Washington Post earlier this week and got into an exchange of comments with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco catholic.

Currently, indoor worship services are banned in San Francisco and there is a strict 12-person attendance limit placed on outdoor services.

"I never expected that the most basic religious freedom, the right to worship — protected so robustly in our Constitution's First Amendment — would be unjustly repressed by an American government," the archbishop wrote. "But that is exactly what is happening in San Francisco."

At Archbishop Cordileone's urging, San Francisco Catholics took to the streets to voice their demands.

On Friday, Pelosi publicly pushed back on the archbishop's outspoken criticism of COVID-related restrictions placed on worship services by health officials.

Pelosi, a San Francisco Bay Area catholic, said she misses going to Sunday mass, but was critical of the archbishop's recent op-ed protesting limits on larger public gatherings. She said he should not be putting people's lives at risk.

"With all do respect to my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this," Pelosi said.

The archbishop took to social media on Saturday answer Pelosi's criticism.

"There is no science that says only one person should be allowed to pray in churches such as the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, which seats 2,500 people. There's only one explanation for such a rule: a dislike of the Catholic Church," a Facebook post on the archdiocese page read. "The DeYoung Art Museum and other museums are being allowed by Mayor London Breed to open at 25 percent capacity: Why won't the City and County of San Francisco treat Catholics—at a minimum--the same?"

"Here's what I would say to City Hall: You aren't hurting me. I celebrate the Mass every day. You are hurting hundreds of thousands of Catholics being denied the consolation of the sacraments in a time of great troubles. "

Pelosi said she attended an outdoor in-person service recently in San Francisco and received communion — picking up the wafer from the priest, as is allowed, rather than having it placed directly on the tongue. She regularly joins online services.

The San Francisco Bay Area Democrat said she had to sign up in advance to attend, and found about a dozen people spread out once she arrived.

"Very, very, very spaced," she said.

Pelosi questioned whether the archbishop's message was misunderstood.

"I'm sure he must have meant if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people's health if they want to go to church," she said.

"I say, I believe science is an answer to our prayers. It is a creation of God, and one that is an answer to our prayers," Pelosi added.

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