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The Archdiocese of San Francisco has agreed to stop celebrating public Mass indoors and to restrict outdoor services after city officials threatened to close churches that were operating in defiance of the city’s public health orders amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Archdiocese remains steadfast in protecting the health of its congregants and all San Franciscans,” general counsel Paula Carney wrote Tuesday, responding to City Atty. Dennis Herrera, who had sent a cease-and-desist letter the previous day.

In the seven-page document, Herrera alleged a series of violations that followed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s decision to allow parishes to resume public indoor Masses in mid-June.

“We were surprised at the city attorney’s letter, as the archdiocese has been in close contact with city officials for several months now,” communications director Mike Brown said in a statement Thursday. “We have initiated contact to help decision-makers understand the nature of our religious services, the sizes of our churches and the care with which the California bishops have taken to plan very safe reopening of our churches for public Masses — when public health officials permit.”

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