SEOUL (UCAN): Catholic dioceses in South Korea have placed restrictions on liturgy and gatherings as they joined state efforts to check the Wuhan (Covid-19, formerly Novel coronavirus 2019) coronavirus that has already infected at least 18 people in the country.
The Archdiocese of Seoul along with the dioceses of Incheon, Jeonju, Suwon and Uijeongbu circulated messages instructing the faithful to take protective measures even in cases of worship and prayers.
The messages asked Catholics to take special care to prevent the spread of the virus during Sunday Masses and other such gatherings where they gather in large numbers in a packed place.
Some dioceses have exempted Catholics from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass if they have developed symptoms such as a fever, cough or sore throat.
“Read the day’s scripture, pray the rosary and do some good deeds for others if you are unable to attend Sunday Mass,” one message said.
Parishes have also asked people not to use the holy water stoup, while some want washing lotions to be available near churches.
One message said people can attend Mass wearing face masks but should not shake hands or hug when they exchange “the sign of peace.”
Korean dioceses have also cancelled or postponed pastoral activities such as jubilees or feast programmes that might see people gathered in large numbers.
Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, said in a message that Catholics “should join the effort to contain the deadly virus following the government’s direction and show warm interest and care to those who are suffering from the virus.”
The Diocese of Uijeongbu, northern Seoul, held a special Sunday collection to help those affected in China, the epicentre of the virus where 44,653 were reported infected and 1,113 reported dead as of February 12.
On the bright side, 4,771 people are reported to have recovered.