The Diocese of Rochester has suspended all Masses throughout its 12 counties until further notice.
The suspension takes effect immediately and is in response to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano announced in a March 16 statement to parishioners. The suspension does not apply to weddings and funerals, which still may take place provided they adhere to a New York state regulation enacted March 16, which limits attendance at public gatherings to a maximum of 50 people.
“Churches however, will remain accessible for private prayer, pending further regulations and as feasible in local situations, at the discretion of the pastor/administrator,” Bishop Matano stated.
These guidelines could potentially change if further state and local restrictions are imposed in the future, the bishop noted.
This decision was not lightly, but rather these steps are being taken out of a grave concern for the safety and protection of all concerned, according to Bishop Matano.
“This decision is truly grave and imposes a great sacrifice upon our people who deeply love the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Matano stated. “I ask our priests to offer Mass each day, without the presence of the faithful, fulfilling their scheduled Mass intentions, as well as praying for all entrusted to their pastoral care.”
The bishop encouraged all Catholics and Christians to pray for the community, especially the most vulnerable; for members of the medical community; and for government and health-care workers guiding the rest of the community through this emergency situation.
“Please also remember those whose lives have been otherwise disrupted, especially anyone who has lost income from a loss of work during this difficult time,” Bishop Matano stated. “May Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, grant us health and bring us a resolution to this universal pandemic.”
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic March 11, the same day the first case of the virus was confirmed in a patient in Monroe County. Parishes, Catholic schools, religious orders and Catholic Charities agencies cancelled a spate of activities that had been planned for mid-March.
A second case was confirmed in Monroe County on March 13, triggering the closure of both Catholic and public schools throughout Monroe County and the diocese and the cancellation of most, if not all, remaining parish and school events.