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Archbishop addresses unrest, George Floyd's death during first in-person Sunday Mass in months

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- For many Catholics in the Milwaukee area, this weekend marked the first time in several months that they could attend church in person.

Parishioners who attended Sunday mass at Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist noticed some changes. Parishioners were asked to come in a side entrance instead of the front doors, singing was minimized and they were required to wear masks. Church officials replaced the more than 700 chairs that are usually there with a few dozen plastic chairs.

"Sunday Mass is in our hearts and in our sense of obligation. Our churches are usually half to three-quarters to completely filled on Sundays, but to have no one there -- you can imagine what that feels like," Archbishop Jerome Listecki told reporters after the service.

During his sermon, Listecki addressed the unrest and destruction that filled the city this weekend.

"The death of George Floyd needs a just response. But not violence, which only hurts the very communities and issues that need our attention," Listecki said.

After weeks of watching virtual services, parishioners were glad they could hear the archbishop speak in person.

"These times really, you have to count on your faith. You need it more than ever. It's a special moment in that regard, and it's special to be here in the cathedral," said parishioner Bill Stemper.

"I think they did a very good job in (taking precautions) and hopefully over time more people will come to the mass and things will get better in the world," said parishioner Nancy Stemper.

Between 30 and 40 parishioners attended both Sunday Mass and a service on Saturday night. 

About 45 Catholic parishes in the Milwaukee area, including more than a dozen on the near south side, did not reopen Sunday. Listecki said it is up to the individual pastor to decide when it is safe for them to reopen.

"I don't want anybody to get sick," said parishioner Amy Teutenberg. "My local parish on the east side didn't open because of the coronavirus though I come to the cathedral from time to time."

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