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After disclosing he hasn’t received COVID-19 jab, Cordileone supports pastor who asked him to postpone visit

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone meets with people experiencing homeless at St. Anthony’s Dining Hall in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood on November 6, 2021. / Dennis Callahan

Boston, Mass., Dec 15, 2021 / 09:29 am (CNA).

After disclosing that he has not had a COVID-19 vaccination, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has agreed to reschedule a parish visit at the pastor’s request, due to parishioners’ health concerns.

Cordileone, who shared his vaccination status on a Dec. 1 podcast, was scheduled to visit St. Agnes Catholic Church in San Francisco on Dec. 19. According to the parish’s policy, however, only priests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may celebrate Mass there.

For that reason, and because parishioners shared their uneasiness about Cordileone not being vaccinated, Father George Williams, S.J., the pastor, called the archbishop and asked him to postpone his visit.

“These are stressful times enough and I felt his pastoral visit to us would be overshadowed by concerns about the pandemic,” Williams wrote in the parish’s Dec. 5 bulletin.

“When I explained this to his Excellency, he graciously understood,” Williams later told ABC7 news. “We look forward to his visit when the circumstances permit.”

Williams said in the bulletin that he feels it is important that “everyone feels safe,” adding that “we all” must “do our part” in preventing the spread of the virus, especially in light of the new Omicron variant.

CNA asked Williams in an email if the archdiocese gives pastors the option to require vaccination, but received no response. That same question was posed to the archdiocese, to which they responded: “health care decisions are a very personal matter.”

“Archbishop Cordileone has every confidence in Father Williams’ ability to know his people well, and respond to their sensitivities with compassion,” the archdiocese added.

Cordileone, 65, first revealed he had not received the vaccine on the San Francisco Chronicle’s “It’s All Political Podcast,” when he responded “Not yet, no,” to the hosts inquiry of his vaccination against COVID-19.

There were “a number of reasons” Cordileone listed for not being vaccinated on the podcast. He said that because of his particular health situation, noting his “good immune system,” his primary care physician told him “it’s probably not necessary” to get vaccinated.

“He didn’t dissuade me from being vaccinated,” Cordileone said. “But he said he was fine if I decided not to be because of my own particular health situation.”

In the interview, which was mostly about abortion, Cordileone talked about equitable distribution of the vaccines, immunity versus protection, vaccine mandates, and his own encounters with an infected person and crowds. 

In March, 2021, Cordileone encouraged parishioners of the archdiocese to get vaccinated “in consultation with their physician.”

Both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops’ conference have said that reception of the vaccines is morally permissible when recipients have no other ethical option due to the gravity of the pandemic. Pope Francis has encouraged COVID-19 vaccination, calling it an “act of love.” In December 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a note stating that reception of the vaccines is morally permissible but “must be voluntary.” The note recognized “reasons of conscience” for refusing vaccines.



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