In a statement released March 18, Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito announced that in light of the coronavirus pandemic he has “made the very difficult decision. . . that in our diocese all Catholic churches will not be available for the attendance or personal visits by the faithful, effective Friday, March 20, until further notification.”
The bishop stressed that although public participation is excluded, celebration of Masses by the dedicated priests in the Diocese of Palm Beach is not suspended and will continue to be celebrated daily and on a Sunday basis.
“The celebration of the Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church and joins the entire Body of Christ no matter who is present or not,” said Bishop Barbarito. “While this is a very difficult situation, it is essential for us to realize that the life the Church continues and is with us no matter how isolated we may be or feel.”
Bishop Barbarito’s statement was made in response to the many concerns in the community regarding the diocese’s accordance with public directives and procedures in safeguarding the faithful from the spread of the coronavirus, which, said Bishop Barbarito, “has caused a serious health emergency, a fear-filled panic and a continuing isolation that must be dealt with carefully and prudently.”
The bishop’s statement regarding liturgical precautions during the coronavirus pandemic is in line with the decision that all bishops in the state of Florida made to best serve their communities. This decision follows the recent closing of Catholic school campuses until April 15, with students transitioning to virtual courses March 31.
Bishop Barbarito concluded his letter addressed to the faithful of the diocese with encouraging words, “The challenge of what is before us during the season of Lent affords us the opportunity to support each other, to listen and reflect upon the word of God, to offer prayer, perhaps in a new manner, and to hear God speaking to us. Our Lord, who isolated himself in the desert where he was fiercely tempted by Satan, has show us that he will never abandon us. . .”
In putting these words into action, Bishop Barbarito gathered the Pastoral Center staff March 19 to pray the rosary in union with Pope Francis in front of the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola. Pope Francis invited every family, every member of the faithful and every member of religious communities to join him on this day, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, to pray the Rosary as “an invocation and supplication of the Father’s mercy to deliver us from this pandemic.”
An important part of prayer that day was for the sick, their caregivers, public safety and the deliverance from the fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
To read Bishop Barbarito’s statement in its entirety or to view his video message to the faithful, visit diocesepb.org.