The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington announced Thursday that it is canceling all masses and closing all schools.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory announced Thursday evening that all masses would be canceled and all schools would be closed after Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland ordered the same day that all Maryland schools close and that no public gatherings in excess of 250 people could be held.
A press release from the archdiocese noted that Maryland ordered “that no public gatherings in excess of 250 people may be held until further notice,” and that Gregory canceled all masses as a result of this order.
“We are aware of the rapidly developing district and state guidelines regarding the coronavirus,” Gregory said in a statement. “My number one priority as your Archbishop is to ensure the safety and health of all who attend our Masses, the children in our schools, and those we welcome through our outreach and services.”
He added: “Please know that this decision does not come lightly to close our schools or cancel Masses.” (RELATED: ‘Seeking Solace’: Largest Catholic Church In North America Sees Increase In Attendance During Coronavirus Panic)
“We are profoundly saddened that we are not able to celebrate our sacraments as a community for the time being but we know Christ remains with us at all times — specifically in times of worry like this.”
Gregory noted that he has made both pastoral and spiritual resources available as well as a TV Mass on the archdiocese’s website.
“I also invite you to join us for Mass and prayer via livestream in our social media,” he said. “May the peace of Christ settle any anxieties and fear we may have. Let us continue to pray for the people whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus as well as those who continue to care for them.”
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington clarified to the Daily Caller News Foundation Friday that “churches are not closed to the public. Public masses are cancelled. Churches remain open for private prayer. Each parish has its own confession schedule, so any changes to that will be at the discretion of the pastor.”
News of the closures come after the D.C.-based Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception announced Thursday that it would remain open “as long as we are permitted by government authorities.” (RELATED: Churches Suspend Worship Services In DC, Maryland And Virginia Over Coronavirus)
The Washington, D.C., shrine, which is the largest Catholic church in North America, will remain open to the public until otherwise instructed by the government, according to a Thursday statement from Monsignor Walter Rossi, Rector of the Basilica, provided to the DCNF.
Rossi noted that the basilica has seen “increased attendance at our daily Masses” — attendance that indicates there are “many who are seeking the solace that can only be found in the celebration of the Holy Mass.”
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