Breaking News: Bishops take action to help contain coronavirus threat

More information is coming Check the Masses Schedule and Events Calendar for changes or cancellations.

Holy Name Parish: More information is coming. Check the Masses Schedule and Events Calendar for changes or cancellations.

This is reposted from Grandin Media: https://grandinmedia.ca/bishops-take-action-to-help-contain-coronavirus-threat/

To limit the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health said all mass gatherings of 250 people or more should be cancelled, and any event that has more than 50 attendees should also be cancelled.Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media

Bishops take action to help contain coronavirus threat

Catholic bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories are on a conference call today to discuss expected changes to masses, after the provincial government announced new measures for places of worship to cancel mass gatherings of more than 250 people.

Grandin Media will update this story as more information becomes available.

In a series of aggressive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Alberta government has ended previous exemptions to places of worship.

“It is crucial that we continue to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health said at a March 15 press conference.

“We now have evidence that community transmission is occurring. All mass gatherings of 250 people or more should be cancelled, and any event that has more than 50 attendees should also be cancelled.

“Places of worship will no longer be exempt from these restrictions.”

The Alberta-NWT bishops include Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, and Bishop Jon Hansen of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, N.W.T. A statement was expected after their conference call.

Archbishop Smith has tested negative for COVID-19 and has now ended a four-day self-quarantine.

Currently, there are 56 confirmed cases of the virus in Alberta and 321 across Canada. There has been one death, at a seniors’ care centre in Vancouver. More information is available on the Alberta government website.

A further update on cases in the province will be given later today. On March 16, the Canadian government barred entry to all non-Canadian citizens. The government also announced that no one displaying symptoms such as a fever, cough or respiratory problems will be able to board a flight to Canada.

The Alberta government also indefinitely closed all of the province’s schools, daycare and post-secondary institutions due to the threat of COVID-19. Maintenance and administration would continue, and staff will be expected in schools to plan potential alternatives.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has emphasized that all students will be given a final mark and advanced to their next grade in September.

“We will be indefinitely cancelling classes across the province,” LaGrange said. “School authorities are expected to continue their regular day-to-day operations and ensure the safety of our school facilities.”

Newman Theological College has suspended all in-person classes for the remainder of the semester and classes will be instead given online. The college will remain open so students can access the library and other college services.

Similar measures are in place at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, and all professors have been asked to teach their courses online.

As of March 16, seminarians residing at St. Joseph’s Seminary have not been sent home.

Last week, the Edmonton Archdiocese put in place a series of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. All holy water fonts have been emptied. Handshaking during the Sign of Peace and the distribution of consecrated wine have both been prohibited. Archbishop Smith also lifted the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to all seniors, people will underlying health conditions and all who feel ill.

The global pandemic has led to Mass suspensions throughout Canada and around the world. Last week, the Catholic dioceses in Quebec and Nova Scotia suspended weekend masses, but churches can remain open for private prayer and Eucharistic adoration.

In the dioceses of Ottawa and Toronto, weekend Masses and numerous Catholic events have been cancelled, but daily weekday Masses will continue. Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has encouraged pastors to reach out to vulnerable parishioners to ensure they are not alone at this time.

Weekend masses currently continue in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, but Archbishop Michael Miller has asked parishes to use “creativity and compassion” to limit Mass attendance to under 250 people.

“Concern for each person and the common good must always be paramount,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement. “Practical information on responding to the virus and mitigating its spread is available from local public health officials, as well as from the federal and provincial governments, and should be heeded.”