Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Camden Diocese suspend celebration of mass, places limits on sacraments due to COVID-19

Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez has suspended all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia effective at noon on Wednesday, March 18 and until further notice.

Last week, the Archbishop dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

Both decisions were made in response to the growing concern over the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the directives provided by government and health department officials at the local, state and national levels.

The archdiocese said these measures will be re-evaluated pending future developments.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan canceled public weekday and Sunday masses as well as placed restrictions on several other sacraments Tuesday in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Sullivan said in response to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's decision to limit much of the activity in the state, he made the following decisions regarding the spiritual activities of the diocese:

MASSES
* All public weekday and Sunday Masses be suspended until further notice. Public weekday Masses are not to be held even if attendance is fewer than fifty since, generally speaking, it is the older faithful who are most vulnerable that usually attend.
* Since the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life, all priests in the Diocese of Camden must celebrate Mass privately for the good of the Christian faithful entrusted to their care and in satisfaction of the intentions of those who have made an offering for Mass.

ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS:
* Baptism - the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism may take place as long as the attendance at each celebration is limited to fifty. This may require parishes to reschedule baptisms.
* Penance - since confessions are held individually, times may be scheduled as the pastor sees fit for the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. Lenten Penance Services are to be canceled.
* Confirmation - The diocese will work with individual parishes regarding the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation during the month of March. In keeping with restrictions on the size of gatherings, the celebrations will be restricted to confirmandi, sponsors and parents.

* Anointing of the Sick - priests will continue to provide the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, but must take all necessary germ protection precautions in place at an individual's home, nursing home or hospital.
* Marriage - pastors should discuss with couples whose weddings are scheduled in March and April. A wedding ceremony or Mass may be celebrated, but attendance should be restricted to no more than fifty persons.

FUNERALS - funeral liturgies with or without Mass may be celebrated in the parishes of the Diocese with due regard to the Governor's mandate to limit the gathering to no more than fifty persons.

ADORATION - pastors may expose the Blessed Sacrament for a period of time each day so that the faithful may come, pray and unite themselves in spiritual communion with the Lord. However, a reminder about social distancing should also be posted.

HOLY WEEK AND SACRED TRIDUUM - any decisions regarding the celebration of Holy Week, the Chrism Mass and the Sacred Triduum will be made as we monitor the situation.

DIOCESAN RESPONSE ASSISTANCE

* Diocesan Staffing - Essential offices such as the Bishop's Office, Finance Office, Communications Office, Human Resource Office and Internet Technology Office will remain operational. Other departments will be reviewed for needed.
* Schools -Schools of the Diocese of Camden have been closed until further notice. Teachers are working with online and home instruction to keep students engaged in meaningful learning.
* Live Streaming Of The Mass - the Office of Communications developed a list of those parishes that live stream Mass.


Bishop Sullivan asked for patience and perseverance in this "fluid situation." He said there was no timeline as of yet for how long the restrictions would be in place.

"As difficult as it seems right now, it is vitally important that the Catholic faithful follow the directives of the civil authorities related to the COVID-19 pandemic," he wrote.

You can also watch Sunday Mass from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on 6abc at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday.
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