In a letter to the clergy and the laity on Friday, Bishop of Kolkata Reverend Paritosh Canning, who heads of the Kolkata diocese of the Church of North India, said the measure was taken to protect everyone’s health. He also urged everyone to observe “Janata Curfew” — self-imposed curfew — on March 22, as requested by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to combat the spread of the disease.
“Corporate worship in all the churches on Sundays and Lenten devotions on Wednesdays and Fridays will remain suspended so as to avoid large gatherings,” he added. “The churches may remain open for visit of the faithful. As per the request of the honorable Prime Minister, all will observe a Janta Curfew on Sunday. All church meetings, seminars, retreats, choir practice will remain cancelled/suspended.”
The bishop’s house-office here will remain open only on Tuesday and Friday till 3 pm, but outsiders will not be allowed to enter. “If situation gets worse we may close bishop’s house office completely for this month,” said Canning. “All our church offices are closed for this month, all church programmes are cancelled for this month. Seeing the situation we will take further decision.”
In an earlier statement, Church of North India (CNI) had asked all presbyters — elders or ministers of the church — to sanitise church premises, and provide hand sanitisers to worshippers. At the moment, Christians are observing 40 days of Lent in the run up to Good Friday and Easter. They spend this time praying, fasting, donating, and observing rigorous penance.
Archbishop Thomas D’Souza told The Indian Express that the archdiocese would review the situation on March 31 before deciding if church services should resume in the state.
“This is a precautionary measure put in place to combat the present situation,” he added. “The Catholic community has to contribute for the safety of the people. This will help us avoid large gatherings which will reduce the danger of passing the disease. On March 31, we will review the situation and then take an appropriate decision accordingly.”
St. Xavier’s University Vice-Chancellor Father Felix Raj said the moves adhered to the directives of the central and state governments.
“Church services are held together with people,” he told The Indian Express. “In view of the present situation, the bishops have decided that there will be no public services. This is being done for the safety of the people.”
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