Mumbai: During the ongoing Lent season, Christians practise abstinence but this year, in view of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems like they will now have to abstain from going to church altogether. On Tuesday, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay, released a directive exempting the faithful from attending Sunday mass until March 31, 2020.
Members should avoid coming to church in keeping with the government directive to avoid large gatherings, revealed leaders of the Christian community. Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Bombay, the apex body for Roman Catholic churches in Mumbai, said, “We are encouraging people to stay at home. We have lifted the Sunday obligation of attending mass. We will provide religious services online in order to avoid mass gathering.”
Members of the Christian community revealed mixed responses, as some said they are disturbed by this decision while others claimed the move would help contain the spread of COVID-19. George Sequeira, a resident of Andheri, said, “We could all use this time of global crisis to come together and pray but the church authorities are directing us otherwise. If we come for mass services then we can also notify and understand if some member needs medical help.”
It is better to avoid mass gatherings and crowded places, said Cynthia Mendonca, a resident of Mahim. Mendonca said, “All global organisations have informed people to avoid large gatherings. Religious institutions are no exception and it is better to take realistic precautions and practical measures rather than following traditions and customs.”
As per the directive, 'members who have cough, fever and cold or have a weakened medical condition' are urged not to come to church. Further, the directive stated, “Those above 60 years of age are advised not to come for Mass as they are more vulnerable according to medical experts. People are asked to follow the Eucharist on YouTube.”