Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Please know I am aware of how the spread and growing concerns of the coronavirus are impacting all of you. Many are teleworking, schools are canceled, travel is restricted, and we have taken extraordinary precautions in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus within our parishes, schools, ministries and charities.
During this time, I have been praying for each of you every day. I ask that you also keep in prayer those most impacted by the coronavirus: first and foremost, those who have died and their families, those diagnosed with the virus, those with loved ones suffering from the virus, and those who are enduring tremendous financial hardship as a result of the changes within our society. I also want to extend my appreciation and pastoral support to caregivers and those in the medical profession working to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
As a many of you are aware, we have been communicating with the faithful and the public almost every day about updates and the latest news related to our response to the coronavirus. We have posted statements on our website, and used social media, podcasts, emails, and other tools to bring you the latest information we have.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force recommends limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. This recommendation is consistent with CDC guidelines for events that serve “high risk” populations. That would certainly include public Masses.
Therefore, it is with great sadness that I announce that starting March 17, I am suspending the public celebration of all Masses in the Diocese of Arlington until further notice.
Suspending Masses may safeguard our physical health, but I understand that our spiritual health must also be maintained to the best of our ability. For that reason I have asked our pastors to keep our churches open to the public, so that those who choose to pray, are welcome to do so in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, while keeping a safe distance from one another and not exceeding the 1o-person limit.
I encourage you to go to ArlingtonDiocese.org for the latest changes and updates related to our parishes, schools, ministries and charities. If you sign-up for our e-newsletter, you can get those updates sent to you directly. For updates unique to your parish, please visit your parish's website.
As some of you know, the Diocese co-sponsors a televised Sunday Mass with the Archdiocese of Washington. It takes place at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, and is available at 10:30am on Sundays on two local TV stations as well as online. Go to ArlingtonDiocese.org/TVMass for more information or to view the Mass.
While this is clearly a confusing moment, we must remember Our Lord tells us: “Be not afraid!” We must remain rooted in, and unified by, prayer! We published a “Prayer to Jesus for Healing and Guidance” that is available on the diocesan website. I ask each of you to pray that prayer with your family each day during this situation. And know that your priests will do everything they can to provide for your spiritual needs.
Also consider how you can use your time. Many people at home have more free time than before; ensure you use this time productively. Find ways to spend time alone in prayer and silence with the Lord. Pray with your children. Teach them more about the Faith. Spend quality time as a family. Get some exercise. It is important that we not simply sit and worry. We must be active in keeping our bodies and our souls healthy until the coronavirus passes. And it will pass.
In the midst of this pandemic, God is with us! Draw near to him, the one who promises to deliver and to protect his people.
May our Lord Jesus bless you with his healing love, and keep you steadfast in faith and joyful in hope, now and always.
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge s
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