Masses cancelled at Catholic parishes, new guidelines issued by Cardinal

UPDATE: On Fri., March 13, Cardinal Seán O'Malley issued a new advisory cancelling all Masses this weekend and "until further notice."
The Cardinal has issued a "dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass" to all Catholics.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley on Thurs., March 12 issued new directives to Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston that ask the community to "call on faith and reason to meet [the] challenge" of COVID-19, which he said should lean on "public authorities and the scientific/medical communities [to] guide us with facts and advice and we are called to respond to policies and programs they recommend."

O'Malley said :"We will continue public celebration of daily and Sunday Mass," calling it "a necessary source of support for the community."

People who are ill or "at particular risk by reason of age or existing health conditions are excused from the obligation to attend Mass," O'Malley said. "We encourage participation in the celebration of Mass broadcast on CatholicTV."

All other public gatherings in parishes "such as dinners, lunches, and other social gatherings should be postponed or canceled until further notice," the Cardinal writes.

Fonts that contain holy water "should be emptied, cleaned and remain empty," O'Malley writes.

Communion will still be distributed at Masses, but O'Malley said that the church would be "temporarily suspending distribution of communion on the tongue and invite the faithful to reverently receive the Eucharist in their hand."

"This directive is motivated by care and concern for the health of our people, especially those who are most vulnerable. As soon as the need for this temporary policy has passed and it will be safe to do so we will return to the practice of distribution of communion on the tongue."

Earlier directives from the Archdiocese have addressed the exchange of the "sign of peace," a standard part of Catholic liturgies. As outlined in the parish bulletin at St. Gregory's in Dorchester, the sign" is to be offered without any physical contact. If the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation for the sign of peace, the faithful, instead of a handshake, may bow to the persons nearby."

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