'For the common good': Catholic masses in Singapore remain suspended amid COVID-19 outbreak

This photograph taken on February 23, 2020 shows Christian devotees listening to a pre-recorded mass on television inside their home as a protective measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Singapore. - Health fears from the new coronavirus sweeping across the world have forced large public gatherings in Singapore like religious services to be cancelled. On February 15, the city-state's Roman Catholic archdiocese suspended all public masses indefinitely, offering pre-recorded services for the faithful to watch or listen to at home via YouTube or the church radio. (Photo by Catherine LAI / AFP) (Photo by CATHERINE LAI/AFP via Getty Images)
Christian devotees listening to a pre-recorded mass on television inside their home on 23 February 2020 as a protective measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Singapore. (Photo AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — In light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Catholic masses will remain suspended, said the head of the Catholic church in Singapore, who cited the need to “act responsibly” to protect the community at large.

In a pastoral letter to the faithful on Thursday (12 March), Archbishop William Goh said that despite the precautionary measures that have been put in place at various parishes, he was rescinding an order to resume masses this weekend, in light of recent developments.

He noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has just declared COVID-19 a pandemic, while the “worsening regional threat” and the infection cluster arising from an event at SAFRA Jurong have caused much anxiety among the community at large.

“We are not helping the situation if we resume Masses at this time, simply because of the sheer numbers of Catholics packing in each service, and their fluidity in moving from one parish to another, and attending different services,” said the Archbishop. “Furthermore, a large percentage of our parishioners belong to a vulnerable group - seniors with lower immunity.”

He added, “Hence, to protect the larger population, I have decided to rescind the order to resume Masses until the situation is much improved and more stabilised.”

Masses had been scheduled to resume on 14 and 15 March, following an order by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese on Valentine’s Day to suspend masses indefinitely. The Catholic Medical Guild (CMG), which is “constantly in consultation with the government”, will make its recommendations when it is time to resume masses, said Goh.

Acknowledging that “it is a decision that will not please all”, the 62-year-old stressed that he had to decide “for the common good”, adding, “Should anything untoward happen, it would be too late to regret.”

He urged parishes to be “more proactive and creative” by offering on-line Masses, reflections and talks, and encourage the formation of small bible-sharing groups. “This would be a great opportunity to strengthen our neighbourhood communities and church organisations.”

There are an estimated 300,000 Catholics in Singapore.

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