After being suspended on account of the new coronavirus outbreak, churches in Singapore will resume Masses in mid-March.
“Sunset and Sunday Masses will resume on March 14 (Saturday) and March 15 (Sunday) when all the churches put in place the necessary precautionary measures,” said a statement from the Singapore Archdiocese posted on Facebook.
Mass resumption will be subject to Ministry of Health guidelines and advisories, the archdiocese said.
“Whilst the necessary precautions have been put in place, those who do not wish to take the risk are exempted from attending Mass to fulfil the Sunday obligation,” the statement said.
Weekday Masses could resume on March 16, while those unable to attend due to health concerns and/or fears are exempted, and may instead participate online or spend time in prayer, the statement added.
On its website, the archdiocese said they met with Singapore’s minister for Health and the Minister for Culture, Community & Youth who “encouraged the Church” to resume activities with the necessary precautionary measures.
“This decision was reached after much discernment balancing the known risk of transmission based on available data, social responsibility, and our core mission of providing pastoral care and spiritual formation,” the archdiocese said.
In the event that a cluster of cases develops in one of the churches, “close contacts” will be quarantined for up to 14 days, while the rest of the congregation will be advised to monitor their health for the same period and visit a doctor if feeling unwell.
The Church noted it “has a responsibility to minister to the faithful and the regular celebration of Masses is an essential ministry,” adding the risks associated with resuming services is “the same risk that schools … face in remaining open for their students.”
In case the outbreak worsens, Archbishop William Goh of Singapore will consult with his advisors, priests, laity, and health professionals to determine the appropriate course of action, the Church said.
The Church in Singapore had moved to suspend Mass on Feb. 14 “indefinitely” until there was “greater clarity on the way forward” regarding the viral outbreak. The Church also cancelled large public events.
That decision was taken one day after a cluster of cases was discovered at the independent Church and Missions Singapore, among other places.
Five new cases were reported on March 5, bringing the national total to 117.
On March 6, Singapore minister Lawrence Wong, who co-heads the country’s virus fighting taskforce, said the new coronavirus is ”starting to look like a global pandemic,” Reuters cites him as saying.
With the number of new coronavirus cases worldwide approaching 100,000, Wong noted that the spread of infection had been accelerating in other parts of the world, including Europe and North America.
The World Health Organization has not categorized the new coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, but could do so if necessary.