Udupi: The Diocese of Udupi has suspended public access to holy mass at churches in the district till March 31 as a precautionary measure against the fast spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo, Bishop of Udupi, in a circular to all the faithful of the Diocese said, “The whole world is in the grip of Corona virus. It is necessary that we take precautionary measures so that we ourselves do not become victims of the deadly disease and more importantly we do not become unconscious carriers and communicators of the virus. As a diocese, our priority is the health and safety of our families. On March 18, 2020 the Deputy Commissioner of Udupi issued an order in view of preventing the spread of the virus and in the interest of public health and safety, which needs to be strictly adhered to by all.”
The Bishop released a directive that read, "In the light of this order, I give the following directives to be followed in all the churches and religious institutions of Udupi diocese until further orders.
"First and foremost, let us send up our fervent prayers to the Lord who alone can save us from every danger and disease. Particularly, the present Lenten season is an ideal time for a prayerful intervention on our part. Let us then draw courage and confidence from our faith in the unfailing protection of our God.
"Apart from taking all the necessary precautions, let us fully cooperate with the Central and State Government and heed to the periodic advisories issued by them for public safety.
"In the interest of health and safety, coming and congregating in groups in the church is prohibited. Hence, masses (both weekdays and Sunday) will not be held in the church for faithful. When public access to Sunday Mass is unavailable, the faithful are dispensed from the Sunday obligation. I hereby exempt all the faithful of this diocese from obligation to attend mass on Sundays till March 31, 2020. However, the churches will remain open for private prayer, meditation and visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
"In case of a death in the parish, the funeral will take place in a simple manner. The priest will visit the family of the deceased and bless the mortal remains. Thereafter the funeral rites will be conducted in the presence of the family members. The celebration of the requiem masses could be postponed.
"Let the faithful accept this situation, as an invitation to make their families ‘domestic churches’ with regular reading of the Bible, praying of the Rosary, practice devotions such as Way of the Cross, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Spiritual Reading, watch Celebration of the Mass and spiritual programmes on TV and Internet. Let us remember to pray for those who are suffering from Corona virus worldwide and for those who render medical service to the affected.
"Spiritual programs such as retreats, Way of the Cross, common penitential services and other public devotions held in the church must be cancelled. Likewise all conferences, seminars, SCC and ward gatherings, masses in the ward for the sick, summer camps, parish events, processions and so on are not to be held.
"Anyone who is ill, suspects he/she is ill, or is considered vulnerable, people with chronic illness, immune system deficiencies or other underlying health conditions must refrain from visiting churches and other places.
"As restriction has been placed on public gatherings and all public celebrations, the Parish Priests and Heads of the Institutions should take into consideration the order of the District Administration on the issue of providing access to the parish halls for programs and meeting places.
"Priests, Religious and leaders must take into account the ongoing guidance and orders from civil authorities relating to public/private gathering, personal hygiene, cleanliness in all public and private places, transport and other activities, and thus cooperate with them in promoting health and life."
Concluding his message, the Bishop asked the people not to be disheartened but surrender themselves to the "will of God who is in firm control of every situation". "Let us deepen our trust in God and double our prayers," he added.
He also assured the faithful that they are in his prayers and asked them to help those most in need in these times.
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