PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the suspension of the public celebration of mass during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in force until further notice, including Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
In a statement by the Archdiocese released Tuesday, officials said this is a continuation of the edict released March 17, suspending mass and altering the celebration of sacraments as to comply with social distancing requirements.
"The coronavirus challenges us to celebrate the Mysteries of Christ for the glory of the Father and our sanctification, with reasonable limitations and in cooperation with directives from government and health officials to stem the spread of the virus," read the release.
Officials said during this time churches will remain open and available for the faithful to visit and pray, in a way that respects and follows the guidelines from government agencies concerning crowd sizes and gatherings.
Palms will be blessed and reserved at local churches for distribution at a later time.
"I want to encourage people to know the steps that we are taking is for the sake of humanity," said Pastor Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in West Oak Lane.
He says they have been offering services online during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says that while yes, it's always better to worship together, "the church is not the building it is the people."
We heard a similar story from the 133-year-old First Baptist Church in Collingdale.
"For the last two weeks we've been live streaming from here in the auditorium on both YouTube and Facebook," said Pastor Perry Messick.
Messick says they've actually had more people watching services online than in person.
At the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Pastor Dennis Gill reports this week alone they had more than 50,000 viewing the mass online.
"One of the things I find surprising is we have more people viewing mass today than who actually went to mass before the epidemic, so I'm hoping that this will bring about some new life in the church," said Gill.
Rabbi Neil Cooper at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood says in these difficult times, it is vitally important to stay connected with the faithful.
"This situation requires all of us to do some different things in order to make sure that people don't feel isolated and alienated," said Cooper
That is why when a Collingdale officer asked Pastor Messick if he could use his phone to record a prayer for a relative who's in the hospital on the ventilator battling COVID-19. He did just that.
"And I was told by the officer that he and her family were very encouraged," said Messick.
And Rabbi Cooper is unable to see his wife who is in the hospital with the symptoms of the virus and hoping she sees this.
"I'll give her a shot out tell her that we're all thinking of her," said the Rabbi.
Several area churches and faith groups are steaming services online during this time. A list of those services can be found here.
Philadelphia to continue suspension of public celebration of mass through Easter Sunday