To prevent spread of COVID-19, Hong Kong Diocese cancels Masses

Catholics celebrate Mass at Hong Kong's Catholic Cathedral with protective masks Feb. 2, 2020. The threat of spreading the coronavirus has forced Catholic officials in Hong Kong to suspend all public Masses on Sundays and weekdays from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28. (CNS Photo/Francis Wong)

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The threat of spreading the coronavirus has forced Catholic officials in Hong Kong to suspend all church programs Feb. 15-28, including Sunday Masses and the Ash Wednesday liturgy that marks the beginning of Lent.

Ucanews.com reported Cardinal John Tong, apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, said the "disappointing" decision had been made "because the next two weeks will be a crucial time to suppress the epidemic."

Advertisement

"Some church members may be disappointed" with the diocesan move, the cardinal said in his Feb. 13 pastoral letter. "This is not an easy decision."

The move comes amid global fears that the epidemic, now called COVID-19, has worsened in China against the prediction of experts. The epidemic, first reported in Wuhan city of Hubei province, has spread across the world and claimed more than 1,300 lives, with more than 60,000 confirmed cases as of Feb. 13, mostly in China.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

Hong Kong, which has open borders with China, has reported 50 confirmed cases and one death. The densely populated Hong Kong city-state of 7.4 million people is on high alert to check the virus, as thousands have crossed over from mainland China to avoid the infection, ucanews.com reported.

"At this difficult time," Catholics must "deepen our trust in God and implement our Christian love for our neighbors and all people," the cardinal's message said.

Cardinal Tong said he wanted Catholics to fulfill their Mass obligation by participating in Mass online, receiving Holy Communion spiritually and meditating on the Scriptures or saying the rosary at home.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

He also urged Catholics to help each other; share anti-epidemic materials; live the Gospel virtues of faith, hope and love; and pray for each other.

As part of efforts to arrest the outbreak, Hong Kong has set up a slew of mass quarantine camps to isolate victims. So far, around 2,200 people have been placed in quarantine camps in Hong Kong, and some people have criticized the government for setting up the camps in residential areas.

The new mandatory quarantine rules took effect Feb. 8, with people arriving from the mainland required to be quarantined for 14 days to curb outbreaks in the community. People leaving the camps without permission commit a criminal offense punishable with a six-month jail term and a fine of $25,000 (US$3,220), the government has said.

With the prices of essential goods soaring and unavailability of medical masks, residents have raided supermarkets and pharmacies, braving chilly winds.

Schools in Hong Kong will extend closures until March 16, Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong's education secretary, said Feb. 13.

The government has given its 176,000 civil servants the option of working from home until Feb. 23 to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Join us throughout the Lenten season as we offer a special presentation of the Gospel, Passion and Resurrection narratives. 
Isabelle SenechalApril 07, 2020
Cardinal Krajewski invited these churchmen to “participate in the sufferings of all those who are enduring trial” because of the coronavirus “by giving an offering.”
Gerard O’ConnellApril 07, 2020
Australian Cardinal George Pell is pictured in Rome May 8, 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)
The High Court of Australia announced that in a unanimous 7-0 decision, they found that “the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”
Gerard O’ConnellApril 06, 2020
Catholic Charities leaders say that while the government relief package signed into law on March 27 by President Trump will help meet some of the initial need, much more action is needed for charities to be able to meet the expected demand.