UCA News

South Korea

No Masses, Ash Wednesday liturgy in Korean archdiocese

Decision comes a week after an unusual increase in Covid-19 infections, reportedly from Christian gatherings

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
No Masses, Ash Wednesday liturgy in Korean archdiocese

A Catholic in Daegu Archdiocese reads a directive banning Masses placed in front of Nasam Parish on Feb. 20. The archdiocese is seeking to contain the fast-spreading Covid-19 virus. (Photo: Catholic Times)

Share this article :
With reports of the Covid-19 virus spreading from religious gatherings, a South Korean archdiocese has suspended all Masses for three weeks and effectively cancelled Ash Wednesday liturgy — a week after Hong Kong Diocese took a similar decision.

Archbishop Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil of Daegu in an urgent directive on Feb. 19 banned all church gatherings, including Masses, for three weeks until March 5. The directive applies to all parishes and religious houses under his jurisdiction.

The decision comes after new cases of infections were reported from Christian gatherings in the archdiocesan area.

On Feb. 19, South Korea reported its first death from the coronavirus epidemic.

South Korea reported 82 infections on Feb. 19 but 51 were new cases reported on that day and the previous day. Of the 51, at least 37 cases were reported from the Daegu area and in people who attended prayer programs of a Christian sect popularly called Shincheonji, local reports said.

Experts linked the new infections to a member of the sect, identified only as the 31st patient. The 61-year-old woman, who tested positive early this week, reportedly attended prayer programs before and after she had symptoms of virus infection.

The urgent call of the archdiocese asked all priests to stop public Masses and urged Catholics to pray in homes and engage in spiritual exercises, including the reading of the Gospel, to observe the day of obligation, it said.

On Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on Feb. 26, Catholics should fast and abstain from meat, although they have no liturgy on that day.

The day marks the beginning of Lent, seven weeks of prayer, fasting and abstinence for Catholics in preparation for the feast of Easter that commemorates Christ’s resurrection.

The Korean archdiocese’s move comes a week after Hong Kong Diocese suspended all church programs for two weeks on Feb. 13. It meant canceling the Ash Wednesday liturgy too.

Hong Kong’s apostolic administrator Cardinal John Tong said the “disappointing” decision was taken because the next two weeks “will be a crucial” to subdue the epidemic.

After weeks of panic and confusion, the epidemic situation is reportedly stabilizing in China, where the new coronavirus was first reported in December.

Cases have subsided in Hubei province, considered the epicenter of the virus. On Feb. 19, the province reported only 349 new cases against more than 1,600 reported the previous day, official news service Xinhua reported.

Across the globe, 2,247 people have died from the virus from more than 76,000 confirmed cases, with most reported in mainland China. On Feb. 19, Hubei province reported 108 deaths, which was significantly less than the death rate of the previous week.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."