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Mar 17, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Starting on Sunday, public Mass will no longer be held in Catholic churches

Starting this Sunday, Catholic churches will no longer hold public liturgy due to the coronavirus infection, the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced on Tuesday.

In their communication, they highlighted that churches “are especially important as places of spiritual restoration and prayer” and therefore will not be closed. However, starting on Sunday, public liturgy will be “suspended.” Funerals are the only exception, but “will have to be held in a simple and brief form.”

They stated that according to the rules of the Code of Canon Law, if the diocesan so decides, he may grant exemption from the attendance of Sunday Mass. The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference is granting this exemption in all dioceses.

The body of bishops is asking priests to continue to hold services in churches and chapels, “witnessing that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the center of the Church’s life.”

As a result, any already recorded Mass intentions can be carried out “sine populo” (without a congregation present) or simply be deferred.

“We are encouraging churchgoers to join the holy act from their homes, thereby expressing that in every Holy Mass, the entire church becomes one with the sacrifice of Christ,” they explained.

The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference stressed that the tenets laid down in the Catechism and in the Code of Canon Law hold true also in the present extraordinary situation, whereby “if anyone is unable to attend the celebration of the Eucharist for a good reason, they are advised to spend time praying instead – reading the Bible, singing hymns or praying – individually or with the family.”

They added that church services are broadcast online from several locations, and on Sundays and holidays, the public service television will also televise Holy Mass “to give confirmation, comfort and encouragement to those who are now unable to attend Sunday Mass.”

Information on broadcasts is available at katolikus.hu and www.magyarkurir.hu.

They further called upon priests and believers to fully observe and follow the state regulations for disease control in regard to patient care, confession and extraordinary Communion.

At the same time, the body of bishops added that, in view of the extraordinary situation, they will allow “the granting of general absolution” with immediate effect until revoked.

They also asked the church’s educational, social and healthcare institutions to fully observe and follow state regulations as well. They must fully cooperate with the authorities and pay attention to the general guidelines issued by them.

Bishops are encouraging parish and monastic communities to organize an ongoing prayer for those affected by the epidemic, subject to compliance with the regulations of the disease control authorities.

The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said that the epidemic highlights our vulnerability and that we must take care of our own lives and those of others. With our prayers and by our example, we are strengthening faith in God and in one another, they said. The bishops went on to ask that we exercise the virtue of generosity and stated that in this situation, we should especially pay attention to one another, in particular, the sick and the elderly. The bishops also asked their fellow elderly priests to take special care of their health at this time. 

A call center set up for advice on the coronavirus can be reached on +36-80-277-455 and +36-80-277-456 or by email koronavirus@bm.gov.hu