Catholic church services suspended for two weeks

Archbishop Simon Poh

KUCHING: The Catholic Archdiocese of Kuching has announced that all weekly and weekend public masses will be suspended for two weeks in order to prevent the further spread of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Catholic Archdiocese of Kuching Archbishop Simon Poh said the masses will be suspended beginning from March 20 to April 3.

“We therefore exempt all Catholics from fulfilling their Sunday obligation of attending mass during this period,” he said in a statement yesterday.  

He said this exemption was a temporary measure and that the church would continue to monitor and review the situation to determine if the period of suspension needed to be extended beyond April.

“All catechism classes, Sunday schools, RCIA sessions and other programmes and activities should be cancelled during this same period,” he said, adding that all meetings, gatherings, formations, fellowships and events organised by churches would be cancelled too.  

He said any weddings or funerals would be conducted privately with guests limited to immediate family members and close friends. He urged Catholics to contact their parish priest for further details.

“For the Sacraments of Penance (confession), anointing of the sick and Holy Communion for the home bound, please contact the parish office for an appointment with your parish priest,” he said.

He added churches and chapels would remain open for private and personal prayers and Eucharistic adoration according to the times scheduled by the respective parishes.  

“We are making arrangement to broadcast online masses over the weekends in the various major languages and will provide the links as soon as we have them,” he said.  

He said although a broadcast mass was no substitute for an actual mass, it could still serve as a form of spiritual devotion.

“We recommend the faithful to read the Word of God, especially the prescribed readings for the mass of the day, pray the holy rosary, fast and offer up other spiritual exercises and devotions to invoke God’s intervention to end this crisis,” he said.

He added the experiences of other countries had taught that social-distancing was able to contain massive outbreaks.

“The church’s current measures are also in accordance with the recommendation of the Ministry of Health and the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee to postpone all mass gatherings.

“We continue to place our hope and trust in Almighty God and pray that the Lord will bring a swift end to this crisis. May Almighty God bless you and your families with good health, peace and abundant graces,” he said.

Archbishop Simon added many of the church’s precautions were in place for the whole month of February such as no holy water at church entrances, no shaking of hands in church and removal of Sunday missals, hymn books and other liturgical books from the church entrances.

“About 20 events including gatherings, seminars and visiting the poor during Lent have been cancelled,” he said.