Catholics and members of the church community marched across San Francisco Sunday demanding that city officials ease COVID-19 restrictions on indoor religious services.
“We try to work with them. But they don’t want to listen. They don’t care about the church,” said Father Moises Agudo, a pastor in the Mission District. “And I’m starting to think that they don’t care about the Latino community. In the Mission District, people are losing jobs, families. They are immigrants … The only consolation that these people have is the church.”
At the St. Anthony of Padua Church in the Mission District, parents, children, older adults and pastors gathered for a march led by Agudo to join others at City Hall. Residents looked out their windows and pedestrians drew out their phones to record the procession as people in the march sang hymns and chanted “We are essential, free the mass.”
“The only thing we ask [for] is to treat us equally because they are depriving the people of God,” Agudo said, urging officials to allow indoor services of at least 25 percent of churches’ capacities.
While The City has allowed up to 50 people to gather for outdoor services and one person at time to enter places of worship indoors since Sept. 14, those at the march viewed officials’ reopening decisions as unfair treatment of the Catholic Church.
For one, grocery and retail stores are permitted to allow more people indoors than churches, said Michael Marcheschi, a catechist at the St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
“It’s not speaking up to San Francisco’s theme of equality for all,” Marcheschi said.
Guillermo Collado, a member of the St. Peter’s Parish, said that officials’ COVID-19 restrictions violate the first amendment of the constitution, which grants people the right to freely exercise one’s religion.
“I’m very angry because my rights as an American citizen have been trampled upon,” Collado said. “We’re equal under the law. And they’re not treating us that way. They’re treating us as non-essential, as something that can be dispensed with.”
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone led the march after people converged at City Hall, walking toward the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption for outdoor masses.
“We’re very tired of being discriminated against because we’ve proven scientifically we can worship safely inside of church,” Cordileone said. “We have the scientific evidence. We want to do it responsibly. We don’t want to be reckless. We’ve developed safety protocols that work. They’re effective. So there’s no reason to keep us shut out of church. It’s a natural right protected by the first amendment.”
Cordileone told people at the outdoor masses: “To City Hall, you don’t matter. One person at a time inside this great cathedral to pray? What an insult. This is a mockery.”
He urged Catholics in The City and across the country to continue to be responsible citizens and abide by “reasonable” public health rules and serve the community “despite the mockery to which we are being subject in so many different ways.”
As the outdoor masses came to an end, Vicki Courrier, a resident of the East Bay, noted: “It was a beautiful mass and I’m just in awe that they’re able to celebrate multiple masses at the same time. I think that’s really wonderful. And I thank the Lord for this beautiful day.”