March 12, 2020
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are excused from attending Mass as the coronavirus continues to spread across the region, though churches will remain open, Archbishop Nelson Perez announced Thursday.
"Effective immediately, and until further notice, in union with the Bishops of Pennsylvania, I have dispensed the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass," Perez said in a statement. "Despite the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, all regularly scheduled masses will remain open to the public for those who wish to attend."
The last time anything close to such a dispensation from attending Mass was provided to Philly Catholics was in January 2016, ahead of a snowstorm that had been forecast to drop at least a foot of snow on the region.
The announcement from the archbishop came Thursday after Philadelphia officials said that for the next 30 days gatherings of 1,000 people in the city are prohibited, and it is recommend residents avoid gatherings of more than 250 people such as religious services and sporting events.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf warned residents of Montgomery County to avoid large gatherings, among other precautions as the coronavirus outbreak spreads in the region. Montgomery County – which had 13 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday – is part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, along with Delaware, Chester, Bucks and Philadelphia counties.
In Montgomery County, all schools, universities, community centers, gyms, non-essential retail stores, and entertainment venues have been ordered to close by the state for at least two weeks. The restrictions are set to go into effect Friday, Wolf said.
While Philadelphia has only one confirmed coronavirus case thus far, dozens of test results are pending and city officials expect additional cases to arise. The state of Pennsylvania currently has 22 coronavirus cases.
There are more than 1,500 cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 39 deaths as of Thursday afternoon, according to the New York Times.
More than 132,000 people around the world have contracted COVID-19, and there have been almost 5,000 worldwide deaths, so far. The majority of these cases and deaths have occurred in mainland China.
The virus has been detected in over 110 countries. Along with China and the U.S., the virus has spread quickly in Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, and Norway.