In a dramatic response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced Friday it was lifting from its parishioners the obligation of attending Sunday Mass for the next three weeks.
Archbishop José H. Gomez also announced attendance at any Mass in the archdiocese should be limited to 250 people and that nonessential group meetings and retreats would be suspended.
“I encourage those of you who cannot come to Mass to stay home and read the gospels, pray with your families and to join yourself to the sacrifice of the Mass by making an act of spiritual communion,” Gomez wrote in a letter to the archdiocese.
The archdiocese covers Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
“It is true that with the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, we are facing a global health emergency that is like nothing we have seen in our lifetimes,” he added. “But our hope is in the Lord and we know that he will give us his grace and mercy in our time of need.”
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it was canceling all large public gatherings.
At the Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, gatherings are being limited. Tours of the 15-acre hillside Buddhist monastery have also been eliminated.
“We will bring back the tours when we feel it’s safe and the danger has passed,” spokeswoman Venerable Zhixing Shih told The Times last week. “We, like others, want our visitors to feel connected and safe.”
Though parishioners may think some of the steps are drastic, Sean Dempsey, a Jesuit priest and assistant professor of history at Loyola Marymount University, said the Catholic Church took even more dramatic steps in the past to deal with dangerous diseases.
During the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, 50 million people died worldwide, nearly 700,000 in the United States. Dempsey said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia worked with that city’s health department and shut down all services and classes.
The vacant schools and churches were converted into makeshift hospitals and medical wards, while clergy aided in healthcare efforts.