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Catholic church postpone services in England and Wales due to coronavirus

by Heather Preston
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The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has announced it will be suspending public acts of worship in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures will come into effect from Friday 20th March "until further notice".

The President and Vice-President explained that in light of the COVID-19 crisis "many aspects of our lives must change" to keep people safe, save lives and support the NHS, "including the ways in which faith is expressed publicly.

"Our churches will remain open. They are not closing. They will be a focal point of prayer, where you will find solace and strength. In visiting our churches at this time, we will observe with great care the practices of hygiene and the guidance on social distancing," Vincent Cardinal Nichols and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon said in a letter to the Church.

"However, the celebration of Mass, Sunday by Sunday and day by day, will take place without a public congregation." 

The statement, made on behalf of the Bishops' Conference, encouraged worshippers to join them for an online live-streamed Mass and follow prayers from home; "making an act of spiritual communion."

"We want everyone to understand that in these emergency circumstances, and for as long as they last, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is removed. This is, without doubt, the teaching of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181). This pandemic is the 'serious reason' why this obligation does not apply at this time," the letter stated.

Worshippers have been advised to consider the needs of their neighbours, especially the elderly and vulnerable as the outbreak widens and "play their part" in serving the local community.

It has also been announced no public Catholic Masses will be celebrated in Scotland from Thursday while churches will remain open for personal prayer.

The number of people who have tested positive for the virus in the UK rose by 676 from Tuesday to Wednesday, bringing the overall number of cases to 2,626.

The country's death toll has risen to 104.

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