ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – All public masses have been suspended in parish churches and chapels in the Diocese of St. Augustine until further notice, the diocese announced Thursday.
Priests will continue to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass daily, but without participation by the faithful, the church said.
“The Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Augustine must do its part to support medical and governmental efforts to blunt the effects of the COVID-19 virus. The premise underscoring all our actions is to break the chain of physical contact by which this contagion propagates,” said Bishop Felipe Estévez in a statement. "Ideas and actions on limiting numbers of people in groups and ‘social-distancing’ all center on this purpose of minimizing physical contact. The medical fact is that we do not and cannot know with certainty who at any moment might be carrying the virus because COVID-19 manifests itself through many of the same symptoms as other seasonal medical conditions (i.e., flu and allergies). So too, people are contagious for a period of time before displaying these symptoms. And for these reasons, breaking the chain of physical contact is imperative to success.”
All clergy have been provided pastoral guidelines and actions by Bishop Estévez that emphasize pastoral discretion and wisdom when making decisions for the parish. This includes directives on funerals, weddings, infant baptisms and confession. Clergy have also been provided guidelines and protocols to follow when visiting the sick and responding to calls from hospitals and other health care facilities.
For more information and updates from Bishop Estévez, visit Dosafl.com/coronavirus.
The church said that some parishes have live-streaming capabilities to offer the mass online. Also, Bishop Estévez and several priests of the diocese will provide daily Mass and Sunday Mass from Sacred Heart Chapel at the Catholic Center in Jacksonville via live-streaming on the diocesan Facebook page (www.facebook.com/dosacatholics) and YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/dosacatholics).