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March 23, 2020

Diocese of Camden bans in-person Holy Week Masses to mitigate coronavirus spread

Masses across the region are suspended indefinitely as COVID-19 outbreak plays out

All in-person Masses during Holy Week have been banned in order to further mitigate the spread of the coronavirus across the region, the Diocese of Camden announced on Monday.

The suspension of in-person services includes Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in a statement. Holy Week in the Roman Catholic Church begins with Palm Sunday on April 5 and wraps up with Easter Sunday on April 12.

Masses and services on all five days will be celebrated by Sullivan without a congregation and broadcasted via a livestream on the diocese's website. They also will be streamed on its YouTube and Facebook pages.

Parish churches are permitted to have services without a congregation during Holy Week and to live-stream them. But they are must have at least six participants – priests, lectors and musicians – to conduct a celebration. Additionally, parish churches are encouraged to inform their parishioners of service times and streaming locations. 

Some of the aspects of Masses and services during Holy Week will not be permitted. That includes distribution of palms on Palm Sunday, the washing of the feet and procession of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, and the kissing of the cross on Good Friday.

Pastors are permitted at their discretion to keep parish churches open for short visits, but not for visitation on Holy Thursday, adorations, or other forms of prayer or devotion.

The decision comes just a week after the Diocese of Camden, along with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, indefinitely suspended Masses to combat the spread of COVID-19 across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Penance services during Lent have also been canceled by the diocese and some parishes have been live streaming services in the meantime.

The most-recent decision by the diocese comes just two days after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy mandated all residents to “stay at home” and banned public and private gatherings of all sizes across the state. There are currently 2,844 confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey and 27 deaths as of Monday afternoon

There are currently 92 positive cases in South Jersey. Burlington County has 36 cases, Camden County has 33 cases, Gloucester County has 13 cases, Atlantic County has six cases, Cape May County has two cases, and both Cumberland and Salem counties each have one case.

A Camden County woman became the first person in South Jersey on Sunday to die due to COVID-19.

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