Source: Diocese of Hong Kong/Vatican News
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has issued measures to help the faithful avoid public gatherings and stem coronavirus infections.
In a statement, the Diocese says: "As the cases of locally transmitted Coronavirus infection in Hong Kong is on the increase, the Government is making an urgent appeal to the public: in order to reduce the risk of viral transmissions through human contacts, they should stay at home and avoid going outdoor as far as possible, and they should also avoid visiting crowded places.
The Government has emphasized that the coming two weeks are crucial for combatting the viral outbreak. In response to the strong admonition of the Government, Cardinal John TONG has promulgated the following special pastoral measures, effective from 15th to 28th February:
• All churches and affiliated chapels, as well as all other places (centres, etc.) where regular Sunday and weekday "public" Masses are celebrated, are to suspend all "public" Masses. Other communal religious activities, with the exception of weddings and funerals, are to be suspended as well.
• Parish churches and affiliated chapels are to remain open to the faithful for personal prayers and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Parish churches may also arrange for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament daily or on specific days, so that individual members of the faithful may take part and pray that the Coronavirus infections will be contained as soon as possible.
• Parish Priests who have difficulties in making their churches and affiliated chapels available to the faithful, should consult the Diocesan Curia through the Chancery Office, so that a prudent decision may be made.
• The faithful may choose one of the following alternatives to attending Sunday Mass:
- Taking part in a Sunday Mass online (e.g., through the diocesan website www.catholic.org.hk ) and receive Holy Communion spiritually; OR Reflecting on the Sunday Liturgical text, reading the Bible or saying the Rosary, etc.
• The faithful may also take part in weekday Masses or Lenten devotions or spiritual exercises, such as the Rosary, the Angelus and daily morning prayer by visiting the diocesan website.
The Church, being a member of society, has the duty to maintain public hygiene and promote the common good. Therefore, Parish Priests, the other parish clergy and the faithful are to strictly comply with the above pastoral measures. The Diocese will announce follow-up pastoral measures before 28th February."
Watch Cardinal John Tong's video message: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxlbWYznXqE&feature=emb_logo
Hong Kong has reported 50 confirmed cases and one death. Hundreds of people are now under self-isolation or observation.
French missionary Fr Nicolas de Francqueville, who is currently running a Hong Kong parish, told Vatican Radio it's a time of trial, but he hopes the crisis will help people slow down and rediscover certain values.
Father Nicolas said that thanks also to social media everyone was already aware of the measure and of the need to react quickly in order to follow the Diocese's instructions.
"We will cancel all Masses, but on Sunday we will provide Eucharistic Adoration from 10am to 2pm," he said, noting that the churches are open so anyone who desires can enter the church and pray on their own.
So while everyone is welcome in the Church, nothing will be organized, including, meetings, catechesis lessons and all other activities that normally take place, "because the main focus is to avoid people gathering in big groups because of the risk of contamination."
Father Nicolas said many people are worried, even desperate, "but at the same time we know it is a trial."
He explained that in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is expressed with two characters: the first indicates something dangerous, while the second means opportunity.
"So I hope that in this dangerous time of the virus it can also be an opportunity for Christians, and for everyone, to maybe show more solidarity, to slow down their lives which are usually so busy, so that maybe people can be more with their families, have more time to pray, to reflect on the sense of their lives, perhaps spend more time doing other things," he said.
"in this crisis I hope we do not only think about danger and fear, but that we may also trust in the Lord: may it become an opportunity to trust in the Lord and continue to love, as Christ asks us to do."
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