Numerous Canadian bishops cancel all Masses as coronavirus fears mount
March 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Many dioceses in Canada have either canceled all Masses or limited them to only weekdays after the reported cases of coronavirus rises across the nation and provincial health authorities impose more restrictions on public gatherings.
Archbishop Michael Mulhall of Kingston and Apostolic Administrator of Pembroke announced today that due to civil authorities declaring the province to be in a state of emergency, “all Sunday Masses, weekday Masses and public church events will be cancelled until further notice.”
“Pastors and administrators are to celebrate Sunday Mass privately in keeping with CIC canon 534 (Missa pro populo),” he said.
Public funerals are also canceled along with public weddings.
“Baptisms may take place in the presence of a priest or deacon, the parents and godparents. Weddings, if they take place, are to be in the presence of a priest or deacon and two witnesses,” he said.
“It is with great regret that I announce these measures, but they are necessary to minimize loss of life, especially among those most vulnerable to the virus,” Mulhall said.
Some priests in Ontario are keeping churches open and are offering adoration during the day.
Other dioceses in Canada that have canceled all Masses include the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario.
Bishops in Quebec announced Monday that all Masses and celebrations, including funerals, would be canceled. Churches can remain open for “private prayer and personal devotion only.”
The Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories met on a conference call Monday regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the result of which was the cancellation of all Masses until further notice.
On Tuesday, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith gave a live address from St. Joseph’s Basilica to talk about the unprecedented cancellation of Masses saying, “I never, I never thought that as an Archbishop, and I am sure the other bishops would say the same thing, that I'd be suspending the celebration of the mass in my diocese.”
Smith, along with his brother bishops in the dioceses of Calgary, Grouard-McLennan, St. Paul, the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, and Mackenzie-Fort Smith, N.W.T, all sent messages to their parishes on Monday informing them of the decision.
The bishops have all granted a dispensation to all Catholic faithful from their Sunday obligation. Churches are to remain open for personal prayer and reflection, as well as for funerals. Priests are to be available for confession as well as visiting the sick, including bringing them Holy Communion.
No decisions have been made as to how Masses will be celebrated during Holy Week and Easter.
Smith said the decision to cancel Masses did not come lightly and was painful for him as well as his brother bishops.
“We made the decision, a very, very painful one for us and for all Catholics, henceforward to cancel all Masses in our dioceses in all of our churches,” said Smith.
“This is especially painful for us because the Mass or the Eucharist is center to our faith, it's central to our identity, we live for the Mass and we live from the Mass.”
Smith then noted to take the coronavirus seriously and to heed the advice of public health officials.
“This issue is too serious, we cannot fool around with this, this is the directive that I have put in place, and this is the directive that I expect to be followed,” said Smith.
“We are in this together, we have to act together on this, whether it's within the church or within society, and that’s what we’ll do.”
Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller on Monday announced that Masses can continue, however, attendance must be limited to no more than 50 people. Miller also noted that Sunday obligation has been lifted for everyone.
Holy Communion on the tongue is still allowed, however, “the faithful are strongly recommended to receive Holy Communion only in the hand.”
Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto announced Tuesday that all weekend and weekday Masses would be canceled. For funerals, the Rite of Committal will only be allowed to be held at the cemetery with immediate family members. There will be no funeral Masses held.
“I encourage all people who remain at home and who are cut off from regular social interaction to engage in prayer – to pray the Rosary, to read the Scriptures and to offer prayers for those who are suffering the most in this crisis,” said Collins.
“We should also pray for the health care workers and others who are engaged in fighting this pandemic on the frontlines.”
In Ottawa, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast canceled weekend Masses.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement on March 13, calling all Catholics to heed the advice of their local health authorities and to stay informed on local diocesan restrictions put in place.
The letter concluded in entrusting Canada and those affected from coronavirus to the Blessed Mother.
“We entrust our country and especially those affected, as well as their loved ones and caretakers, to the powerful and maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and ours.”
All over the world, many churches and other places of worship have been closed due to coronavirus fears.
As of Monday, Canada’s total confirmed coronavirus cases stand at 468. There have been five deaths in Canada, including three in British Columbia and one reported today in Ontario.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for coronavirus.
On Monday, Trudeau announced that Canada would be closing its borders to non-citizens and non-residents due to the coronavirus.
Schools and universities are closed in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. Schools in Saskatchewan will close effective March 20. Schools in New Brunswick will likely close soon as well.
Fr. Anthony Pillari recently told LifeSiteNews that times of crisis serve as a “great spiritual opportunity” for those with faith to help those who do not believe and feel hopeless.
Note: Due to the rapidly evolving situation, the above list of Canadian Mass cancellations and school closures will likely change significantly over the next few days.