VaticanNews reports that the Bombay Archdiocese urges self-curfew on Sunday against coronavirus
In a video message on Friday, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay suspends public Masses until the eve of Palm Sunday, and urges the faithful to respect India’s nationwide curfew on Sunday.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay is encouraging his Catholics to adhere to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to a nationwide self-curfew on Sunday.
The cardinal who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), suggested the faithful could avail themselves of the Masses telecast by TV channels such as EWTN, Goodness TV and Shalom but there is no obligation.
In an address to the nation on Thursday, Modi appealed to fellow citizens to observe a self-curfew from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22, as part of a trial-run to test social isolation to battle the coronavirus pandemic in the nation with a population of around 1.3 billion.
FULL TEXT Letter of Cardinal Gracias from the Archdiocese of Bombay:
My dear people,
The Coronavirus pandemic is a matter of extreme concern. The number of cases is increasing and we now have even a few deaths in India. Experts say that the next couple of weeks are crucial for the control of its spread. I had issued instructions giving guidelines based on advisories from the Central and State Governments and after consulting medical experts. This morning I issued another Circular exempting all our faithful from the Sunday Mass obligation till March 31, 2020. There is now a request from the Chief Minister to close our places of worship for a few days. In response to his request and in the interest of the safety of our people I am asking our Parish Priests and Heads of Institutions to suspend all Church services except Mass till March 31, 2020 after which the situation will be reviewed and we will issue appropriate directions. Hence, till Palm Sunday, there will be no missions, no Stations of the Cross, and no Passo Services.
All meetings of Associations are suspended with immediate effect. Big gatherings of over 50 persons are to be avoided. Hence, even on Sunday pray at home. I am advising our priests not to reduce the number of Masses so as to ensure there is a smaller congregation at each Mass. There should not be more than 50 at Mass. You know there is no obligation to attend Mass: so please, I urge you pray at home. Today is Wednesday, we will observe the situation, consult the Government and if necessary, issue appropriate directions towards the end of the week regarding Mass on Sunday.
My advice to you: Do not panic. But take proper precautions. The situation is not out of control. We must collaborate with the Government and Health authorities. These are emergency short term measures so we can avoid a longer lasting effect. Do pray at home especially on Sunday. I recommend to our faithful to observe Friday as a day of penance and fasting for the control of the coronavirus spread. I affectionately urge you: please minimize socialising. Avoid physical contact. And do wash your hands often with soap and water or sanitizer. We are in the season of Lent. Easter is round the corner!! March 18, 2020 X Oswald Cardinal Gracias Archbishop of Bombay
Vatican News reports that other dioceses in India have also adopted preventive measures against the virus.
The North East India Regional Bishops’ Council (NEIRBC) have issued a set of guidelines dispensing Catholics from attending Sunday Mass. The faithful have been asked to avoid gatherings, the sign of peace at Mass, kissing the crucifix or using a single towel to wash the feet on Holy Thursday. Holy water fonts in churches must be emptied and Holy Communion should be given in the hand.
However, churches will remain open for individuals to pray.
The NEIRBC, which includes 15 dioceses, took the decision after a recent two-day meeting at the pastoral centre in Dibrugarh, Assam.
NEIRBC president, Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, has urged the faithful of NE India “to follow the guidelines and instructions of their respective States" and to take necessary precautions to “avoid panic, as fear is more dangerous than the virus itself.”
In some parishes, the local pastors are issuing guidelines for Easter Triduum celebrations. On Holy Thursday, priests will use disposable wipes, not the same towel to wash the feet. On Good Friday the faithful must avoid kissing the cross.
The NEIRBC also asked priests to avoid physical contact when at a sick person's bedside or when they receive offerings.
To date, 245,132 coronavirus infections have been confirmed worldwide, with 10,022 reported deaths. Currently, Italy has the heaviest caseload with 41,035 cases and 3,405 deaths.
Edited from Vatican News and Letter from Archdiocese of Bombay