South Korean Church joins effort to contain coronavirus

Dioceses instruct Catholics to take protective measures even when attending church services
South Korean Church joins effort to contain coronavirus

South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun (left) checks quarantine efforts against the new coronavirus as he visits the customs, immigration and quarantine area at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Jan. 24. (Photo: Yonhap/AFP)

Catholic dioceses in South Korea have put restrictions on liturgy and gatherings as they joined state efforts to check the fast-spreading coronavirus that has already infected at least 18 people in the country.

The Archdiocese of Seoul and the dioceses of Incheon, Jeonju, Suwon and Uijeongbu have circulated messages instructing the faithful to take protective measures even in cases of worship and prayers.

The messages asked Catholics to take special care to prevent the spread of the virus during Sunday Masses and other such gatherings where they gather in large numbers in a packed place.

Some dioceses have exempted Catholics from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass if they have developed symptoms of coronavirus such as a fever, cough or sore throat.

“Read the day’s Scripture, pray the rosary and do some good deeds for others if you are unable to attend Sunday Mass,” one such message said.

Parishes have also asked people not to use the holy water stoup, while some want washing lotions to be available near churches.

One message said people can attend Mass wearing face masks but should not shake hands or hug when they exchange “the sign of peace.” 

Korean dioceses have also canceled or postponed pastoral activities such as jubilees or feast programs that could gather people in large numbers.

Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, in his message said that Catholics “should join the effort to contain the deadly virus following the government’s direction and show warm interest and care to those who are suffering from the virus.”

Uijeongbu Diocese of northern Seoul held a special Sunday collection to help those affected in China, the epicenter of the virus where more than 25,000 are infected and close to 500 are reported dead.

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