Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear on Wednesday encouraged churches to cancel their services in fear of the spreading coronavirus. The Catholic archdiocese in the state does not plan to cancel Masses this Sunday.
On March 11, the governor announced that the eight patients with COVID-19 in the state were “stable and doing well” but stressed that the number of infected will likely increase.
“That number is expected to grow,” Beshear said, WDRB reported. “We expect to see more cases. We are prepared to see more cases.”
According to the Archdiocese of Louisville, the state’s bishops have been in contact with the Department of Health and Wellness and discussed prevention methods with each other and local pastors. However, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said he will not cancel Masses.
“With the information I have now, I will not be calling for a diocesan-wide cancellation of daily or weekend Masses,” said Kurtz, in a letter to parish priests.
“We will ask pastors to encourage those who are ill or have symptoms to stay home as an act of Christian charity for their fellow parishioners. … Pastors will be asked to publicize times for Mass of the Air, which is available through a variety of platforms around the Archdiocese,” said an archdiocesan statement.
The statement emphasized the importance of the Eucharist to parishioners and the Church, especially during times of difficulty. It said, though, parishioners who feel vulnerable and afraid may exercise individual discretion.
“The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the center of the life of the Church. Perhaps especially in difficult times, liturgical gatherings are a source of comfort and hope for the faithful, as well as an opportunity to offer our prayers to God for those who are suffering or who cannot be with us,” the statement read.
“We want individuals who feel vulnerable, especially senior citizens or those with underlying health conditions, to know that they are not obligated to attend Sunday Mass.”
While Masses have not been canceled, numerous Kentucky dioceses have issued prevention steps and other health measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected over 120,000 people and claimed 4,585 lives as of March 11, World O Meters reported.
“The Catholic Church has people of all ages and backgrounds in our care. It’s especially critical in the event of a public health emergency that we strive to be good neighbors and institute responsible measures that protect our faith communities, schools, the personnel who serve in our institutions and the people served by them,” said Bishop Stowe of Lexington, according to a diocesan statement.
If anyone does manifest COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, the three Kentucky dioceses have reminded parishioners that they are excluded from Sunday obligatory Mass and asked them to stay home.
According to the Archdiocese of Louisville, Mass will be broadcast on local faith and news channels.
Around the world, dioceses have responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic.
Masses across Italy are cancelled and churches are closed, in compliance with a mandate of the Italian government. Most dioceses in Japan have canceled Masses. The president of Polish Bishops’ conference has encouraged more Masses in his country. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań said there should be more Sunday Masses, so that services will be less crowded and parishioners will be able sit farther apart from one another.
“In connection with the recommendations of the Chief Sanitary Inspector that there should be no large gatherings of people, I ask to increase – as far as possible – the number of Sunday Masses in churches so that a number of believers can attend the liturgy … according to the guidelines of the sanitary services,” Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań wrote in a statement sent March 10 to CNA.
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