PETALING JAYA: The Catholic Church of Malaysia has suspended mass in Peninsular Malaysia for two weeks as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of Covid-19.
In a statement, three dioceses, namely the KL Archdiocese, the Penang Diocese and the Malacca-Johor Diocese. said they decided to implement the additional measure to prevent further spread of the disease.
This involved suspension of all weekend and weekday public masses from March 14 to 29.
"We therefore exempt all Catholics from fulfilling their Sunday obligation of assisting or attending mass during this period. This exemption is a temporary measure in the face of the current crisis.
"We will continue to monitor and review the situation to determine if the above period of suspension needs to be extended beyond March 29," said the Church.
The statement on Thursday (March 12) was signed by Penang Bishop Sebastian Francis, Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Julian Leow, and Melaka-Johor Bishop Bernard Paul.
The Church also suspended all catechism classes and cancelled all catechetical programmes and activities, including meetings and fellowship sessions.
The Church also asked for weddings and funerals to be conducted privately, with limited guests.
However, the Church said priests are still required to offer masses in private, and that churches, chapels and prayer rooms will remain open.
The Church also said the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese was making arrangements to broadcast mass in the major languages and weekday masses in English.
"Although a broadcasted mass is no substitute for the obligation to assist or attend mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, (but) with the suspension of public masses on Sundays and weekdays, watching the televised masses could serve as a form of spiritual devotion," it said.
It acknowledged that many parishioners would be "extremely pained by this decision" but it said the present crisis had left them with only little choice and that the experience of other countries "have taught us that social-distancing is able to contain massive outbreaks".
The Church also declared March 19 as a designated day of prayer and fasting over the crisis.