I extend my warm greetings to all our students, teachers, and catechists as we begin the new 2021-2022 school year. I am sure that after a year of many disruptions and challenges brought by this pandemic, we all wish it was over. Unfortunately, we are not quite out of it yet. The emergence of the Delta COVID variant and the surge of infections makes it more complex for everyone. According to health authorities, the variant spreads faster and is much deadlier, affecting more of the unvaccinated and the children.
However, I am confident we will be able to face again the hurdles before us with your greater collaboration and partnership as we strive to do the best for our children and the well-being of the community. We have learned from our experiences last year. We also have more resources and support that will help sustain the continuation of their educational journey and achieve levels of growth and development. I will rely on the prudence and sacrifice of our parents, pastors, principals, religious education directors, teachers and catechists to mitigate the effects of the virus infection to keep our schools and religious formation programs open like they were last year.
It will definitely be another challenging time for all of us. So, please observe the updated diocesan health and safety protocols at all our Church and school premises. As Christians, we believe in the sanctity of life of every person. Let us practice charity, sacrifice and care for one another through the simple acts of wearing a mask, physical distancing and sanitizing practices.
Furthermore, federal and local health authorities also attest that inoculation of the vaccine significantly prevents infection. Pope Francis also has made it very clear that “it is morally acceptable to take any of the vaccines, and we have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated.” He stated that “being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love – love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people. Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable.” (Global Ad Campaign, August 18, 2021, Rome)
Hence, I ask our priests, educators and parents to exercise pastoral guidance and caringly encourage others who are not yet vaccinated to consider getting the vaccine, which the Church teaches is morally acceptable. I join my other brother bishops in this plea. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recommends that all members of the Catholic community who can receive a COVID-19 vaccine should do so. He said, “receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines is an act of charity toward the other members of our community and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
Finally, our diocese respects the individual’s conscience whether to receive the vaccine or not. However, we will not endorse a religious exemption from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as it is contradictory to the directives of the pope, and it is an act that could have serious consequences on the lives of others. Our faith in God and love for one another are essential in providing a safe, healthy and Christian environment in our parishes, missions and schools, and in our society.
Thank you for your continued support and cooperation. As I pray for you, please remember the needs of our diocese as well as me in your prayers. God bless you.