by Mary Margaret Olohan
The largest Catholic church in North America suspended all masses and confessions until “further notice” Friday.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception announced Friday that it will “suspend the public celebrations of Mass” as well as confessions, beginning March 14 until further notice.
“Beginning this Sunday, March 15, and continuing every Sunday, the Basilica will livestream its 12 noon Solemn Mass with the Choir of the Basilica from the Great Upper Church on its website at www.nationalshrine.org/mass so the faithful may participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” the basilica noted in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The shrine’s cafeteria, gift shop and bookstore will be closed and no tours will be offered, but the basilica will remain open for “daily private prayer’ between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“We, at America’s Catholic Church, pray for all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the United States under her title of the Immaculate Conception, to intercede for us during these unprecedented times,” the basilica statement said.
The closing came after Monsignor Walter Rossi, Rector of the Basilica, announced in a Thursday statement that the shrine will remain open to the public until otherwise instructed by the government.
“We are taking reasonable precautions to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19),” the rector said in the statement. Precautions include removing holy water from fonts, omitting the “Exchange of Peace,” suspending “public distribution of the Precious Blood during Holy Communion” and increasing cleansing of public areas.
Rossi noted that the basilica has seen “increased attendance at our daily Masses” — attendance that indicates there are “many who are seeking the solace that can only be found in the celebration of the Holy Mass.”
“In these challenging times, we must balance our responsibility to care for the faithful with the need to provide a place of prayer and pilgrimage for those who seek it,” Rossi said. “We will take prudent and rational steps to protect ourselves and our visitors, while also seeking God’s guidance and protection through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
He added: “We are committed to keeping the doors of America’s Catholic Church open. However, should circumstances change and government authorities require us to close to the public, we intend to continue with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
The shrine is located on the campus of the Catholic University of America in Brookland, D.C. Catholic University President John Garvey announced March 11 that the university will move all classes online until “at least Monday, March 30.”
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception” by AgnosticsPreachersKid. CC BY-SA 3.0.