HARRIS COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – A church in Texas has canceled mass indefinitely after one of its priests died and five others subsequently tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston confirmed the death of Father Donnell Kirchner, a 79-year-old priest who worked at Holy Ghost Catholic Church, according to a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
It’s unknown what specifically caused the priest’s death on May 13. The Archdiocese said “it is not clear” if Kirchner had been tested for COVID-19. But within the following week, five others he lived with tested positive for the virus.
Mass was canceled indefinitely.
At Houston’s Holy Cross Chapel, two of the priests who later tested positive had “been active in celebrating public Masses at Holy Ghost since May 2,” when the church reopened, Zuniga said.
Both the parish and archdiocese have encouraged members who have attended Mass since the reopening to monitor their health symptoms and be tested for COVID-19.
Although Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texans to stay home in late March, Texas churches were designated “essential services” and allowed to stay open, according to various executive orders on the governor’s website.
The archdiocese of Galveston-Houston serves approximately 1.7 million Catholics in 10 counties, it says, making it the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Texas.
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