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Catholic and Methodist churches suspend services

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The Catholic Church suspended Masses yesterday — including funerals — amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bishop Wieslaw Spiewak said that priests across the island would celebrate Mass alone “for the intentions of the people of his parish” and that committal services would be held at cemeteries, with “immediate family members present” and that a funeral service could “be celebrated at a later date”.

All “public devotions and other church services” have also been cancelled with immediate effect.

Bishop Spiewak said: “I have asked the pastors to keep the churches open both on weekdays and on Sundays to allow those who want to find a quiet place for their spirit and soul.”

The news came after the board of a church announced the “very difficult decision” to suspend its services until further notice, as the island braced for the potential arrival of Covid-19.

Reverend David Steele, the minister of Wesley Methodist Church in Hamilton, said the decision was taken a day after clerics were advised to limit numbers at services to 50 at a time and to discourage seniors from attendance.

Mr Steele told church members that the decision to suspend services had been taken despite the absence of confirmed cases of the disease in Bermuda.

He added that the island was “very vulnerable right now as we do not have enough test kits or respirators” and that he could give no date for a resumption of services.

Mr Steele said: “By taking proactive steps, we can flatten the curve of the virus and try to stop our health system from being overwhelmed before the proper equipment arrives over the coming weeks.

“There are also many young university students returning to Bermuda who will be going into self-isolation. While the young usually show little or no effects from this virus, they can be carriers.”

The suspension could prevent in-person services over Easter.

Mr Steele said the church had to protect the vulnerable, including “seniors and those with pre-existing conditions”.

He added: “We are also taking a moral stand, as leaders in our community, to support the efforts of the Government of Bermuda.”

He said new regulations meant that he and Leo Mills, a visitation minister, would have to call off visits to hospitals and care homes.

He added: “While services and visits have been suspended, the church is not closed.”

Mr Steele said he was working on provision of a virtual church service each Sunday, with a printed sermon for those not online, and regular updates through Facebook.

He added a “prayer team” had been set up and pastoral phone calls to parishioners would be increased.

Mr Steele said the church's food hamper programme would continue with regular monitoring, but it would not take on new clients.

He added: “You deal with hurricanes on a regular basis. This is another storm and the sun will come out at the end of the storm.”

Mr Steele was among 120 faith leaders who met Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, members of the Disaster Risk Reduction Mitigation Team and David Burt, the Premier, at St Paul Centennial Hall on Monday.

The group was advised to consider using online streaming or broadcasting for services.

Mr Caines told the House of Assembly after the meeting that church food programmes for the island's needy should continue through the “threat to our existence” posed by the global outbreak of Covid-19.

Mr Caines said disposable plates might be needed for churches to serve food and that meals might have to be distributed outside church buildings to limit potential transmission of the coronavirus.

The Catholic St Theresa's Cathedral in Hamilton will be open Monday to Friday from 7am to 4.30pm and on Saturdays from 8am to 12.30pm.

The cathedral will be open on Sundays from 7.45am to 12.45pm and the Blessed Sacrament will be displayed on the main altar between 8am and 12.30pm.

Active role: more than 100 faith leaders met Wayne Caines, left, the Minister of National Security, members of the Disaster Risk Reduction Mitigation Team and David Burt, centre, the Premier, at St Paul Centennial Hall on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic
Active role: Wayne Caines, left, the Minister of National Security, addresses an audience of more than 100 faith leaders at St Paul Centennial Hall on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, as members of the Disaster Risk Reduction Mitigation Team looked on. David Burt, the Premier, not shown, also participated

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Published March 18, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 18, 2020 at 3:47 pm)

Catholic and Methodist churches suspend services

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