CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Instead of Holy Water fountains, there was a hand sanitizing station on Thursday at the entrance of the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables.
The capacity limitations forced Rev. Manny Alvarez to open a second room. The measures were meant to avoid turning the Catholic Christmas Eve Mass into a super spreader event during the coronavirus pandemic.
The members of the church’s choir wore face masks to usher on Christmas Eve with traditional carols.
“We want them to leave with joy,” Alvarez said. “We want them to leave with the joy that comes with Christmas.”
Alvarez said many families have been grieving relatives’ deaths to COVID-19. In Miami-Dade County, more than 4,000 people have died of COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Typically 1,000 people would be at the Church of the Little Flower for Christmas Eve mass, Alvarez said. The limits on capacity forced some churches to ask parishioners to make a reservation online.
Archdiocese of Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who recently received the vaccine against COVID-19, said some parishes scheduled more masses to encourage social distancing.
“This has been a very unusual year and because it’s been an unusual year it’s an unusual Christmas for many of us,” Wenski said.
In the Vatican, Pope Francis asked Catholics to obey the preventive measures during the pandemic. About 200, and not the usual thousands, attended Francis’ Christmas vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“God was born a child in order to encourage us to care for others,” Francis said during the service.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava extended the midnight curfew to 1 a.m. to allow Catholics to attend the Midnight Mass.