Catholics on the SouthCoast and Cape Cod area have been relieved of their requirement to attend weekly mass amid coronavirus concerns, and those masses have been canceled across the region.

Bishop Edgar da Cunha announced that the Fall River Diocese has suspended all public masses until further notice. Masses of First Holy Communion and Confirmation are also included in the suspension. Exceptions are available for weddings and funerals, but those ceremonies must be limited to close family members, with a limit of 10 individuals in attendance.

Da Cunha has also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend mass to all Catholics of the Diocese.

"I am asking that churches be open for a limited time during the day to the extent possible and at the discretion of the pastor to provide the faithful who still wish with an opportunity to visit for private prayer," da Cunha said in a statement. "I strongly encourage our Catholics to pray at home and to seek out opportunities to participate in masses available on television or online instead."

The bishop said the decision was not made lightly as "the Mass is our central act of worship, the source and summit of our Catholic faith." He added that the action was taken "for the good of the protection of all, especially those who are most vulnerable at this time."

Da Cunha asked parishioners to join him in prayer for all those affected by COVID-19. More information is available at www.fallriverdiocese.org.

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