CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston will suspend the celebration of Mass beginning Saturday afternoon because of the coronavirus, Bishop Mark Brennan said Friday.
The decision comes after Gov. Jim Justice announced all schools in West Virginia will be closed until further notice, a decision affecting Catholic schools and child-care facilities.
Brennan said while there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in West Virginia, the decision stems from health care officials concerned about the likelihood of cases in the state.
“While I do not want to contribute to panic reactions, I think it wise to listen to our public health officials when they recommend certain steps to keep our people safe and healthy,” he said in a video message.
Non-essential meetings and parish events are also canceled or postponed starting Saturday.
Brennan said the diocese is working to provide services online. Mass will continue to air on television in Wheeling and Clarksburg.
“Faithful Catholic people love the Mass, so it is a hardship not to be able to celebrate it,” he said. “I encourage you to remain steadfast in faith during this time, by praying the Liturgy of the Hours in your homes, praying the Rosary and by reflecting on the readings of the day.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1,629 cases of coronavirus have been identified nationwide. Forty-one people have died.