BY Peter Diamond | March 20 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Sadness as Masses are cancelled around the world

Bishops’ conferences and dioceses around the world began suspending public Masses in an effort to stem the pandemic of coronavirus.

The measures are designed to ‘flatten the curve,’ in order to ease the burden on the health-care system so that health services are not overwhelmed.

As the virus spread, the Catholic Church in France suspended all public Sunday Masses, weddings and baptisms.

Funerals could only be celebrated if there were fewer than 100 people in the congregation, and if people were spaced from each other by at least one empty pew or chair and no one over 70 years of age could attend, according to guidance issued by the French bishops’ conference on March 14.

Spanish bishops have published links on their website to 11 television channels and four radio stations which are livestreaming or broadcasting Masses, along with the times when the Masses could be followed.

Worldwide cancellations

The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, Malta and Austria also suspended public Masses for at least two weeks.

On March 16, the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam began a nine-day Novena to pray for an end to the pandemic.

In Ireland, the Government announced last week that public celebration of the country’s patron saint would not take place this year and most public Masses are not going ahead, for the first time in centuries.

Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore Diocese said that the ringing of the bells is a call to prayer ‘and a reminder of the Faith that has sustained the people of our island throughout the centuries.’

In North America, the number of dioceses cancelling Masses increased as the March 13-15 weekend progressed.

State of emergency

Along with the suspension of Masses came a dispensation of the Sunday obligation. Some dioceses continued to offer Masses but encouraged anyone with a compromised immune system, especially the elderly, to remain at home.

On March 12, the bishops of Quebec became the first in Canada to cancel all weekend Masses across the province until further notice.

The step was taken in response to measures announced by the Quebec government, including limiting public assemblies to fewer than 250 people.

In Peru, the government declared a state of emergency effective from March 16, closing the country’s borders and restricting freedom of movement and assembly, including religious services.

Pray the Rosary

Several dioceses in Peru had already suspended the Sunday obligation or announced Mass cancellation, but the decree made cancellations mandatory.

Peru reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus March 6; by March 15, that figure had risen to 71.

In the Philippines, bishops cancelled all Holy Week celebrations after the government cancelled all gatherings from March 15 to April 14.

Instead of conducting public liturgies or celebrations, the bishops were encouraging Catholics to stay at home and follow activities on TV, radio or online, reported ucanews.com.

Mysteries of life

They also asked them to ‘pray the rosary, as it is a good prayer to meditate on the mysteries of the life of the Lord that we intensely celebrate in the universal church during the Holy Week.’

Some dioceses in Vietnam cancelled public Masses and encouraged people to watch livestream.

In China, where the number of coronavirus cases is decreasing, a bishop asked Catholics to continue to avoid public gatherings and cautioned against a new wave of unacceptable online prayer programmes, ucanews.com reported.

Disinformation 

Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan particularly warned against the preaching of one priest, Fr Fei Zhisheng, who maintains that illness is a result of sin.

“Some of the teachings of Fr Fei are not in line with the Catholic Faith, and everyone is reminded to stop sharing information about Fr Fei,” Bishop Fang said.

On March 15, the Kenyan government moved closer to closing places of worship, warning people not to congregate for wedding and funerals.

It has also shut down all schools and learning institutions indefinitely.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference took stronger measures.

On March 16, it suspended all public Masses, retreats and pilgrimages for four weeks and closed schools indefinitely and suspended weddings and funerals.

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