From the Inquirer: 

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Thursday that it will close the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul to the public during livestreamed Easter and Holy Week services as part of its “commitment … to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The decision came after The Inquirer reported that at least two dozen people attended Sunday’s 11 a.m. Mass and were served Holy Communion, despite Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez’s order last month suspending all public Masses in an effort to curb the coronavirus’ spread.

A video of that service, shared by an attendee who asked not to be identified, showed the congregants side by side in a tight line as they waited for a priest to place Communion wafers in their hands or, in at least one case, on the tongue.

The Rev. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Divine Worship, said Monday that the attendees had not been specifically invited to the Mass, but were not turned away. Gill said he made sure that he spaced the congregants throughout the basilica’s pews and ensured they followed proper social distancing guidelines throughout the service.

Though the cathedral will be closed during Easter and Holy Week celebrations, it — like many of the archdiocese’s more than 250 churches across the region — will remain open outside of that time for private prayer, said diocesan spokesperson Ken Gavin.

He did not say whether the decision to close the basilica to the public during Masses would extend beyond next week.

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