Tuesday, Bishop Robert Baker, of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, announced that all masses and church activities including Stations of the Cross are hereby cancelled through April 4 due to concerns about spread the coronavirus. Archbishop Thomas Rodi, of the Diocese of Mobile, has similarly cancelled all worship services.
The Archdiocese of Mobile comprises the Catholic churches and ministries in the southern half of Alabama; while the Diocese of Birmingham comprises the northern half of the state.
“The faithful are dispensed from any obligations during this time
“We are aware that our world, our nation, and our communities are coping with the covid-19 pandemic,” Archbishop Rodi said. “All of us are called to be concerned for our personal welfare and that of our neighbors. This will entail sacrifice. I ask that we pray for our own protection and for those who suffer from ill health. It is also important that we cooperate with civil and health authorities.”
Rodi said that Catholic Social Services facilities throughout southern Alabama serve approximately 25,000 of our neighbors in need. They will continue their work; but with restrictions.
“Emergency Assistance Ministries at our Social Service Centers will remain open providing food for families and individuals, clothing, and help with rent and utility bills,” Rodi said. “However, applications for this help will be received only by phone. Food and clothing will be distributed at the door and not within the Service Center. All Thrift Stores will close but clothing will be available for those in need through Emergency Assistance. Counseling for individuals and families will continue to be available but only by phone.”
Rodi said that Parishes may continue to provide food whether from food pantries or kitchens, but only on a takeout basis and not within a building.
Rodi ordered that, “No member of the laity or clergy may conduct a worship service or a devotion of any kind in a church, or other location. I am strongly requesting that our churches remain open for prayer but without services. Funerals, with or without Mass, will not be celebrated in churches or in any other location. Only graveside services are permitted.”
Rodi ordered that weddings, only without Mass, may be conducted in a church building but solely with a cleric, bride and groom, two witnesses, and parents of the bride and groom present. No one else may be present. Bishop Baker said that the Diocese of Birmingham already had a prohibition against weddings during Lent (which ends April 5); but where exceptions had been granted that they be limited to no more than 25 people in attendance.
“Baptisms may be celebrated but only with the parents, godparents, and one cleric present,’ Rodi said.
“Although we will not gather for worship, we remain united in Christ,” Archbishop Rodi said. “I am confident that our dedicated clergy will continue to serve the spiritual and material needs of neighbor. I particularly request that the clergy be present to the sick and those who suffer difficulties. I ask the people of our Archdiocese to please pray. Even if we cannot receive Holy Communion we can join ourselves with the love of God. Prayer is powerful and I request that we pray even more fervently during these challenging days.”
Obviously, all Catholic Schools, religious education, Bible Studies, youth groups, etc. are also on hold during the coronavirus shutdown. Many parents find themselves at home with children with no school through April 6, and likely for the rest of the 2019/2020 school year.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville recommends for children: “Teaching Catholic Kids”
The site has arts, crafts and activities for home & school inspired by faith as well as a long list of links for parents looking for lessons and activities for their children as they shelter in place.
There are more Catholic News and resources at the Alabama based Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) including daily mass for viewing.
Many other denominations and religions are also curtailing religious activities during the coronavirus pandemic.