Parishioners attend indoor mass on Christmas Day at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A smaller-than-usual crowd celebrated Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A, with social distancing measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Parishioners wore face coverings Friday and stayed at least six feet apart from others, including when taking communion.

Many churchgoers who traditionally attend Christmas services were able to watch Masses live from the downtown cathedral on television, or stream the services on their digital devices.

Parishes in Los Angeles County may resume indoor religious services, provided there is space for social distancing of at least six feet between family units, all in attendance wear face coverings, and measures for cleaning and sanitization are followed.

In a letter to priests and pastors in the Archdiocese, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez noted it will be safer to continue celebrating outdoor masses. Likewise, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health strongly recommends that places of worship continue to hold services outdoors.

Downtown LA cathedral honors Our Lady of Guadalupe
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An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was projected on the highest point of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A.

However, if a pastor believes it is better to offer live streamed Masses only or to celebrate indoors -- if permitted by his county and in keeping with their protocols -- he may proceed accordingly, according to the Archdiocese.

Parishes that can and choose to return to indoor in-person worship must observe all protocols issued by their respective county.

"Usually the cathedral is packed with people for Christmas Day, so it's sad that we cannot be together in person, but at the same time as I was saying before, we are together because we are the family of God," Gomez told Eyewitness News.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, while acknowledging the debate over indoor worship services and its own revised guidelines permitting them with safety protocols, issued a statement urging churchgoers to avoid services held indoors.

"No matter what a Superior Court judge says and given what's happening now, it is simply too risky to gather indoors with other people who do not live with you," according to the department.

Those who did gather at Our Lady of the Angels said it's important for them to have mass in person.

"I love attending mass. It feels wonderful to be around other people who feel the same way as you do. And I've been preparing for Christmas and I love beautiful churches so I'm very excited to go inside," said Melanie Hickey, a tourist from Texas.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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