Bishop Mark L. Bartchak today announced the suspension of the celebration of all public Masses and all other liturgical celebrations in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown effective immediately (March 17, 2020) and continuing until further notice. Throughout this time, the dispensed obligation to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses, granted by the Bishop on March 12, remains in effect.
During this period, churches will continue to be open for private prayer, and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown will continue to broadcast the Sunday Mass on television. A Liturgy will air every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. on WATM ABC 23. The Mass will also be posted on the diocesan website and Facebook and Twitter social media platforms.
Funeral Masses and scheduled Weddings and Baptisms will continue to be celebrated at parishes, but attendance must be limited to immediate family members. Other activities such as Stations of the Cross, novenas, missions, and Communal Penance Services will not take place. The faithful may contact their parish for information about individual Confessions. All other diocesan or parish social activities, including fish lunches or dinners in any form (including take-out), are discontinued immediately.
“The decision to suspend all public Masses is not a decision that I take lightly,” assured Bishop Bartchak. “I realize that the faithful will deeply miss participating in Mass and receiving Jesus Christ, present in the Holy Eucharist. However, I cannot ignore the very important recommendations from public health officials during this unprecedented health emergency. All of us have an obligation to take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and that includes the Church.”
The Bishop is aware that liturgical celebrations regularly occur during the Easter season, including the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. These celebrations are being postponed for as long as is necessary due to the impact of the coronavirus in our area. The sacraments will be celebrated as soon as conditions allow, keeping in mind the health and safety of everyone.
All of these actions have been taken after personal and direct consultation with the bishop’s chief advisors, including the lay administrative staff and deans who coordinate activities in the five regions of the diocese.
Each bishop is responsible for making decisions for the good of his diocese. Bishop Bartchak has consulted with all of the bishops in Pennsylvania, who are taking similar steps within their own dioceses. In addition to these steps that impact parishes, the Bishop has also directed that all diocesan offices be closed for at least the next two weeks.
“I am also following the example of Pope Francis, who authorized the same measures for the Church in Rome and throughout Italy, while still keeping himself available to the people through the daily broadcast of his private Mass,” Bishop Bartchak said.
For more information and regular updates on the changes impacting the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, please visit the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown’s Proclaim! e-news site at proclaim.dioceseaj.org, or the diocesan website or Facebook and Twitter social media sites. The faithful are also invited to sign up for text message alerts by texting daj to 84576.