Amid concerns about COVID-19, the Fall River Catholic Diocese has released area parishioners from their obligation to attend mass this weekend.

"Out of concern for the avoidance of large gatherings and for the protection and well-being of parishioners, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., has issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass this weekend, March 14-15, for all Catholics of the Fall River Diocese," the diocese said in a press statement.

Church members at greater risk for the coronavirus because of age or underlying health conditions were especially encouraged to take advantage of the dispensation, and those feeling ill or experiencing symptoms were urged urged to stay home.

Bishop da Cunha and his advisors plan to meet Monday "to assess the situation to determine the appropriate steps to be taken at that time with regard to the obligation to attend Sunday Mass going forward."

The bishop urged the Catholic faithful to watch Mass on television, via live stream on the web, and to pray at home.

Da Cunha asked parishioners to join him in praying "for all those in this country and around the world suffering from the coronavirus, that the Lord may grant them strength and healing in the days ahead."

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