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March 17, 2020

Catholic leaders suspend Masses indefinitely to mitigate coronavirus spread in Philly, South Jersey

Religion Coronavirus
Archdiocese Philadelphia mass schedule coronavirus Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Masses have been indefinitely suspended by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Camden in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus across Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Masses are indefinitely suspended throughout the Philadelphia region as Catholic leaders try to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus. 

Both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Camden announced the changes Tuesday morning. Baptisms, confessions, marriages and funerals can continue as planned but with limited participants. 

The Archdiocese suspended its Masses effective Noon on Wednesday. The Diocese of Camden, which covers much of South Jersey, suspended them immediately. 

“As the Archbishop of Philadelphia, my first priority is to ensure the health and welfare of those entrusted to the pastoral and temporal care of our Church,” Archbishop Nelson Perez said in a statement. “So, in light of the developing coronavirus pandemic, a decision has been made to suspend the public celebration of all Masses in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the time being.

“All of us need to do our part to slow the spread of this illness,” Perez continued. “Like you, we are monitoring coronavirus developments and look forward to continuing our lives on a more normal basis.”

Churches can remain open at the discretion of the pastor for private prayer. Baptisms, confessions, marriages and funerals can take place, but with limited participants.

Catholics who wish to participate in Mass on a remote basis will be able to watch a broadcast of Archbishop Perez’s 11:00 a.m. Sunday service via a livestream on the Archdiocese’s website and the Archbishop’s Facebook page.

“While things may look and feel different during these uncertain times, I want to be very clear that the Catholic Church in Philadelphia is not closing down,” Perez said. “It is not disappearing and it will not abandon you. Time and again, as our history has proven, the Church has risen to meet great challenges and provide a beacon of hope and light.”

Last week, Perez said that Catholics in the Archdiocese were exempt from attending Mass to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In New Jersey, Bishop Dennis Sullivan said the Diocese of Camden decided to suspend all Masses after Gov. Phil Murphy strongly recommended against holding gatherings of more than 50 people. Additionally, penance services during Lent have been canceled. 

“As this is a fluid situation, I ask for your patience and perseverance,” Sullivan said in a statement. “No one knows how long the restrictions imposed on New Jersey residents will last. We will provide updates and resources as they become available.”

Some parishes will be live streaming services in the meantime.

"I have asked our pastors to find ways of communicating with parishioners on a regular basis during this time of crisis and separation from our communal spiritual lives,” Sullivan said. “Providing prayer lines, social media gatherings, regular information and such can help people, many of whom may feel isolated.

“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.”

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