The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego canceled all masses and closed Catholic schools indefinitely Friday in order to limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus amongst parishioners.
The order will go into effect for the diocese's nearly 100 churches on Monday, Bishop Robert McElroy said.
"Each of us will have obligations in these days to protect ourselves, our families, and the entire community," the Bishop's letter to parishioners read. "It is out of this responsibility to protect the safety of all that the diocese will be suspending all public masses after this Sunday."
Churches will remain open for individual prayers and may extend hours to accommodate parishioners' needs. Confessions will not be held.
The diocese said the decision on when to reopen will be made in conjunction with public health authorities. No date has yet been determined.
"The public health response in our society is changing daily, and it is essential that the Church move in tandem with prudent efforts to stop the spread of this pandemic," Bishop McElroy said.
The move was made after Gov. Gavin Newsom banned public gatherings of 250 people or more in the State of California. The County of San Diego followed suit, issuing a public order that was legally-enforceable, according to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
"In light of these government actions, and the public health challenge which underlies them, I consulted with the Presbyteral (Priests’) Council yesterday and again today," he said. "As a result, I have concluded that the following actions must be implemented in all of the parishes and schools of the Diocese of San Diego."
This weekend, precautionary measures will be utilized to limit the threat of the virus' spread amongst parishioners: services will be shortened and limited to 250 people or less, Confessions will not be held, Holy Water and Communion via cup will not be offered, and the Eucharist received by tongue will be limited.
The Catholic Diocese of San Diego also announced all of their schools would close, following the lead of other school districts in San Diego County. There was no word on when schools would resume operations. In the meantime, the Diocesan School Office sent materials to schools for long-distance learning.
Bishop McElroy assured parishioners that Catholics in the diocese would be "are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass during the coming weeks."
Sunday masses will be streamed online in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to accommodate. To watch the masses, click here.
Read the letter from Bishop McElroy below.