I got word of this from a priest friend in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he says the bishop tonight has ordered all the churches to be kept closed, effective immediately, for the safety and well-being of the people.
The letter from Bishop Mitch Rozanski reads in part:
Dear Fathers and Deacons,
As you are well aware, the scope and response to the COVID-19 crisis changes by the day and sometimes by the hour. In order to be in alignment with these national and federal guidelines, I am updating our directives.
1. Effective tomorrow, March 17, all churches and chapels, including adoration chapels and oratories are to be closed until further notice. I understand this will be difficult news to share, but based on input from our environmental consultants and given Gov. Baker’s latest decrees, I had no choice but to take this additional truly painful step.
2. Effective tomorrow, March 17, and until at least March 31 all diocesan pastoral offices will be closed with many staff members working from home. Key staff members will have their direct dial extensions redirected to their homes so that they will be available to answer any questions.
3. I understand many parishes will follow suit and close offices. I am asking that all employees continue to be paid throughout this time. The diocese will suspend Cathedraticum and Education assessments for the time being.
4. Funerals may ONLY be held and attended by immediate family and very close friends, and may not exceed the state mandated limit of 25 people. Times and dates for these should NOT be posted nor published.
5. Mass intentions can be moved to later dates or offered by priests privately.
I understand these are very difficult and disheartening measures, but they are essential if we are to slow down this terrible virus. The diocese will continue to update as circumstances warrant.
Turns out, other dioceses are doing it, as well.
From the Diocese of Harrisburg today:
Today and effective immediately until further notice, Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, out of great concern for the health of the faithful and in union with the Bishops of Pennsylvania, has temporarily suspended all daily and weekend Masses in the Diocese of Harrisburg. Additionally, Bishop Gainer has suspended all public liturgies and devotions, and has asked that all churches and chapels be closed, including all perpetual adoration chapels.
Bishop Gainer made this decision after careful consideration of the recommendations from public health officials, and out of great concern for the health and well-being of the faithful, our clergy and parish staffs, given the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“For Catholics, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life in Christ, strengthening us to remain firm in our faith as we journey through this life. Making this difficult decision to temporarily suspend Masses and close our churches was not made lightly,” said Bishop Gainer. “Rather, this decision has been made after careful discussions and considerable reflection on the advice being provided from healthcare professionals. I deeply care for all those members of my flock. As chief shepherd, it is my duty to see to their spiritual health, and now in these challenging times, also to their physical welfare. I continue to pray for all those impacted by this virus, for our medical professionals caring for the ill and for all people facing these uncertain times. I also pray for the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Mary, health of the sick.”
Read more. And I’m sure other dioceses will soon be following suit.
Pray for our country, our church, our world.