Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley has suspended all daily and Sunday Masses, beginning Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. as the church looks to limit the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The move comes a day after he'd announced that Masses would continue, though with Holy Communion being placed in Catholics' hands, not placed on their tongues.
The escalation — which also limits attendance at small ceremonies like weddings, baptisms and confirmations to immediate family — comes after Gov. Charlie Baker banned most gatherings of at least 250 people, according to the Archdiocese. Along with it, O'Malley issued a dispensation for the Archdiocese's Catholics from their obligation to attend Mass.
"This decision to temporarily suspend the daily and Sunday Mass is motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness," O'Malley said in a statement.
He also sent a message Friday night to his parishes, asking them to remain open to allow the faithful and others in the community to pray and, where possible, receive communion.
"May our prayers in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament be a source of strength and peace until we can safely resume the celebration of Mass for all members of the Catholic community in our Archdiocese and all who would wish to join us at that time," O'Malley said in the message.
On Thursday, several other changes were announced. O'Malley had banned all large gatherings besides Mass and excused anyone who is at risk of contracting the coronavirus, which had already sickened over 100 people in Massachusetts, from attending Mass as well. He'd also ordered holy water fonts emptied and cleaned.
"We won't have, for now, any Mass, any Catholic celebration here in the church until we get further notice," said Nicholas Guzman, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
In the meantime, for those who won't continue to go to Mass in person but want to watch online, CatholicTV is revamping its website Friday. WatchtheMass.com will have the ceremony in English from Sunday to Friday and in Spanish every Sunday.
Read Friday's announcement below:
In response to growing public concern and following Governor Baker’s Emergency Order prohibiting most gatherings of 250 or more people, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, has made the decision effective immediately to temporarily suspend all daily and Sunday Masses and religious services in the Archdiocese of Boston until further notice. This begins at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon, March 14. In announcing this decision, the Cardinal has also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Cardinal Seán said “We live in times when many people are confused, hurt, and fearful, for many different reasons. In the midst of these challenges Jesus seeks to meet us in the same way He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, accompanying us on the journey, calming our fears and anxieties and assuring us that He will be with us always in the gift of the Eucharist. This decision to temporarily suspend the daily and Sunday Mass is motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness.”
The directive to temporarily suspend the celebration of Mass applies to all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries until further notice. Baptism, Confirmations, weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to only immediate family.
CATHOLIC TV DAILY AND SUNDAY MASS
Cardinal Seán encourages Catholics to participate in the daily and Sunday Masses broadcast from the CatholicTV chapel.
- Daily Mass airs live at 9:30am and is rebroadcast at 7pm and 11:30pm.
- Sunday Masses air throughout the day at 10am, 4pm, 7pm, and 11:30pm.
- The Sunday Spanish Mass airs live at 8am and is rebroadcast at 5:30pm and 10pm.
Earlier today after conferring with Cardinal Seán, Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, announced that Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and Archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27. On an ongoing basis, the Catholic Schools Office will consider whether this period needs to be extended further.
The Archdiocese will provide ongoing updates to parishes, schools and ministries during this period of response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Cardinal Seán said, “Though these are challenging times for our parishes and all members of our communities is important that we not forget the importance of care and concern for those who are most vulnerable, including the poor, our senior citizens and people who are medically compromised. I urge those who can do so to maintain the support for their parish during these difficult days in order to sustain the ministries and outreach services for parishioners and those most in need. We entrust the Church to the intercession of our Blessed Mother as we pray for the return to full celebration of the sacraments and community prayer as soon as possible.”
And read Thursday's full letter below:
My Dear Friends in Christ,
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is now part of our public life—our world, our country, our state and our Archdiocese — together we must call on faith and reason to meet this challenge.
All citizens and the institutions that shape our common life are called to respond in solidarity to protect and care for each and all. In particular we must care for the most vulnerable among us because of age, health or socio-economic condition. Public authorities and the scientific/medical communities will guide us with facts and advice and we are called to respond to policies and programs they recommend.
The meaning of faith is that we are not alone in times of challenge. Faith is the foundation of hope, and hope is the capacity to address the complex challenges of life without being overcome by them. They are gifts which yield courage. We nourish faith and hope, and therefore courage, through prayer in our houses of worship, in our communities and in our homes.
We understand faith and hope as a complement to science and medicine. Our country is blessed with tremendous resources in the scientific and health care communities. Particular gratitude is owed to health care professionals at every level of care, especially those caring for the elderly.
In support of the guidance of public health officials, I have issued directives for the Catholic community of the Archdiocese. These will be updated as needed. To access the directives, please go to www.bostoncatholic.org/coronavirus.
In providing directives, which include the following, I acknowledge the need of individuals to make the necessary best judgements for their own well-being and that of their families:
(1.) Reception of Holy Communion: During this time of public health concerns we are temporarily suspending distribution of communion on the tongue and invite the faithful to reverently receive the Eucharist in their hand. This directive is motivated by care and concern for the health of our people, especially those who are most vulnerable. As soon as the need for this temporary policy has passed and it will be safe to do so we will return to the practice of distribution of communion on the tongue.
(2.) Holy Water Fonts: These should be emptied, cleaned and remain empty.
(3.) Public Events: Public gatherings in parishes such as dinners, lunches, and other social gatherings should be postponed or canceled until further notice;
(4.) Celebration of Mass: We will continue public celebration of daily and Sunday Mass. This is an exception to #3 but I judge at the moment this to be a necessary source of support for the community.
(5.) Vulnerable Individuals: Those at particular risk by reason of age or existing health conditions, are excused from the obligation to attend Mass. We encourage participation in the celebration of Mass broadcast on CatholicTV. Please consult your cable provider and network listings for local access.
Also, in response to inquiries about Catholic Appeal, activities scheduled for this weekend will be postponed until May 2/3 or another weekend that would be well suited for the parish. For those who wish to make a contribution currently can do so online (www.bostoncatholicappeal.org) or through the request you may have received in the mail.
I ask and rely upon pastors, priests, and deacons and others in our community to be particularly watchful for the sick and those in need of the anointing of the sick in these times. I ask all in administration to observe these norms and to cooperate with public officials.
May God bless our efforts; may Christ be our model of care for others and may Mary intercede for all the sick and suffering.