In response to the growing novel coronavirus outbreak, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond cancels public Mass. In lieu of public Mass, they announced a new option for parishioners. Beginning Sunday, the church offers streamed Mass for congregations to tune in online.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, made the announcement. He sympathized with those that wished to attend a public Mass. However, he added, “I feel this is a necessary step in the best interest of public health to protect against further infection.”
He spoke of balancing the mission of the Church with measures benefiting the common good. Therefore, he declared a suspension for all Sunday and weekday Masses, holy days, and confirmation liturgies.
Though, instead, the Sunday service will be live-streamed over the internet.
The measure falls in line with guidelines advocating for social distancing and limiting large gatherings. Further directions made by Knestout include limiting the number of attendants to weddings and funerals to close family. Additionally, while churches remain open for private prayer, they discourage multiple individuals from praying together. However, he mentioned priests will continue caring for the sick.
Public Mass Among Many Cancellations
The suspension comes at a time when much of the country turns to aggressive efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Cities have begun issuing orders to stop public gatherings, closing restaurants and bars, and limiting crowds to less than 50 people. Presently, the United States confirms 5,686 cases, 97 of which resulted in death. However, testing lags, and accurate figures about the true number of cases remain uncertain.
While COVID-19 presents symptoms similar to the flu, health officials know considerably less about it. Importantly, while a vaccine exists for the flu, predictions estimate one for the coronavirus remains at least a year out. Hence, strict and expansive measures aim to protect the most vulnerable among us. While most individuals infected with the virus recover, those with underlying health issues and the elderly face a potentially fatal outcome.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention urges the public to engage in hygienic practices like regular hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, and staying away from public spaces as much as possible.