Hong Kong, Singapore cancel public Masses amid coronavirus

Hong Kong, China, Feb 15, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- All public Masses in Hong Kong are canceled through Feb. 28 amid the threat of the spreading of coronavirus.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator and bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, announced Feb. 13 that all public Masses from Feb. 15-28 would be suspended.

The Archdiocese of Singapore has taken a similar step, suspending all public Masses from Feb. 15 until further notice.

Hong Kong is home to around 500,000 Catholics out of a total population of over 7 million, while in Singapore Catholics make up 300,000 of the city-state’s 5.6 million people.

“The Church, being a member of society, has the duty to maintain public hygiene and promote the common good. Therefore, Parish Priests, the other parish clergy and the faithful are to strictly comply,” Tong said, adding that follow-up measures would be announced before Feb. 28.

Tong encouraged the faithful to watch Sunday Mass online, make a spiritual Communion, reflect on the Sunday liturgical text, read the Bible, or say the rosary each Sunday.

He also suggested that the faithful watch ferial Masses online, or make or Lenten devotions or spiritual exercises, such as the rosary, the Angelus, and daily prayer.

“Parish churches and affiliated chapels are to remain open to the faithful for personal prayers and visits to the Blessed Sacrament,” Tong said.

“Parish churches may also arrange for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament daily or on specific days, so that individual members of the faithful may take part and pray that the coronavirus infections will be contained as soon as possible.”

Tong added that all other Church-related activities, with the exception of weddings and funerals, are to be suspended as well.

In Singapore, Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye wrote in a Feb. 14 pastoral letter that “the cancellation of Masses does not mean that Catholics can excuse themselves from fulfilling the obligation of keeping the Day of the Lord holy.”

“They should try to follow the broadcast of the Mass on YouTube or CatholicSG Radio,” he added. He asked that people please check the archdiocesan website for the broadcast’s time.

“Following the broadcast of the Mass will help you to receive the Lord spiritually,” he said. “You can also gather as a family for the Liturgy of the Word by spending time in prayer, reading the Word of God of the Sunday Liturgy and interceding for the world that this Covid-19 virus will be contained and eradicated. Even if you cannot gather together as a family to worship, you should individually spend at least half an hour in quiet time to pray and especially read the Word of God.”

Originating in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, the new strain of coronavirus can cause fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

As of Feb. 13, authorities worldwide have diagnosed more than 63,000 cases of COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, and more than 1,300 people have died. Most of the reported cases are in China, but it has spread to over two dozen countries worldwide.

In Hong Kong, there are at least 50 cases of the disease and one death reported. As of Friday, Singapore has recorded 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19, TodayOnline reports, with 17 discharged from hospital and six in intensive care.

Several countries, including Italy, have suspended flights from Hong Kong, which has an open border with mainland China.

Hong Kong last week issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering from mainland China, NPR reports. The city has set up a large number of mass quarantine camps to isolate victims, many in residential areas, which have led to protests.

The New York Times reports that about 7,000 medical workers in Hong Kong have gone on strike, demanding that Hong Kong fully close the border with the mainland.

Schools in Hong Kong remain closed until March 16 and the government has given its 176,000 government employees the option of working from home until Feb. 23.

The Vatican has sent between 600,000 to 700,000 face masks to three provinces in China since Jan. 27, according to the Global Times. Pope Francis prayed for people infected by the coronavirus during his Sunday Angelus prayer on Jan. 26.

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