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All public celebrations have been cancelled across the Archdiocese of Toronto on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Michael Swan.

Archdiocese of Toronto cancels all public Masses

  • March 18, 2020

Canada's largest diocese has implemented sweeping new cancellations and suspensions after a state of emergency was declared in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Archdiocese of Toronto announced March 17 that all public Masses, both daily and on weekends, are cancelled immediately, and that communal celebrations of the Sacraments of First Baptism, Reconciliation and Communion have been postponed for the duration of the health emergency. In addition, there will be no Masses for funerals or marriages, although burials and wedding ceremonies are permitted if attended by family only.

The drastic measures were announced by Cardinal Thomas Collins after the Ontario government declared a state of emergency and banned public gatherings of more than 50 people. The Archdiocese of Toronto comprises more than two million Catholics and about 220 parishes.

The cardinal called it “a painful moment in the life of the Church,” but hoped the “extreme measures,” would help stem “the pandemic that has affected so many in our community and around the world.”

“We are facing many trials during our Lenten journey this year,” he said in a statement.

Similar measures were being implemented in dioceses across the country. What began as cancellations of Sunday Mass have quickly escalated to cancellations impacting almost all aspects of daily parish life as a result of government calls for the closure of schools, restaurants, theatres government buildings and many other venues which attract large gatherings of people.

“Once again in the history of our archdiocese we are in the midst of an epidemic,” said Collins. “I am deeply grateful for the priests, deacons and lay pastoral workers of the archdiocese who have acted in this emergency with such loving pastoral care.

“We are called to ensure that this continues even more in the time ahead. For example, I encourage all pastors to organize the members of their parish to assist those who are isolated and vulnerable, especially the elderly, while always following the directions of the health authorities.”

Here are the measures that Collins has decreed for all parishes, missions and chaplaincies throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto:

Mass – All public Masses are cancelled, both during the week and on the weekend. Churches will be available for individual private prayer. The priests of the archdiocese will celebrate Mass every day privately for the intentions of the people.

The faithful will be able to watch, via livestream, a Mass which will be celebrated every day at 7:30 a.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, which will be followed by the Angelus and the Rosary. The cardinal will personally celebrate this Mass as much as is possible.

This Mass, Rosary and Angelus will also be available on the Archdiocese of Toronto’s YouTube channel for those who cannot join at 7:30 a.m. These Masses and prayers will be offered for the intentions of everyone as we go through these trying times. In addition, Mass will be broadcast daily on Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation, VisionTV (Daily TV Mass) and EWTN.

Baptism – Communal celebrations of Baptism are not allowed. Individual Baptism is allowed with immediate family and following the regulations established by the health authorities.

RCIA – Catechumens are dispensed from the scrutinies. Information will be sent out later on the Triduum and reception into the Church.

First Holy Communion, First Reconciliation and Confirmation will be postponed for the duration of the emergency.

Sacrament of Reconciliation – Communal celebrations of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are not allowed at this time. All those who wish to receive the sacrament should contact a priest. The sacrament is to be celebrated not in a confessional but rather in another location, where confidentiality may be ensured and where the distance required by the health officials can be maintained.

Marriage – Marriages without Mass may take place with the immediate family members, provided they follow the regulations established by the health authorities. The postponement of the wedding may be requested given these circumstances, but if this is granted there may be a need for revision of the canonical requirements.

Marriage Preparation —Marriage preparation classes are cancelled and pastors are to arrange for individual couples to be prepared properly for marriage.

Visits to the Sick and Homebound should continue as much as possible. As previously communicated, visiting clergy and volunteers should take direction from the health care facility. Parishes should also take care to contact the homebound and vulnerable.

Funerals – During this emergency, there will be no vigils or wake services. The Rite of Committal will take place with the immediate family at the cemetery. There will be no funeral Mass at this time, but we encourage the celebration of a funeral Mass at a later date when it is possible.

Parish Meetings and Events are cancelled at this time.

Parish Offices – While parish offices may offer more limited operating hours, they should maintain an active presence in the community and be accessible to the faithful. Parishes are encouraged to follow the direction of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Human Resources department, providing flexibility for staff as appropriate. The Archdiocese of Toronto’s Catholic Pastoral Centre will also follow this practice, ensuring that offices remain accessible.

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