Portland archdiocese will not cancel public Masses, after Oregon gov bans large gatherings

Archbishop Alex Sample Credit Addie Mena CNA Archbishop Alexander Sample. | Addie Mena/CNA

The Archdiocese of Portland will not cancel public Sunday Masses, after Oregon's governor responded to the coronavirus pandemic by announcing a statewide prohibition on gatherings of more than 250 people.

Portland's archbishop encouraged parishes with high Sunday Mass attendance to consider adding more Masses.

"The celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we encounter the mystery of our redemption, are nourished by God's Word, and receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ," Archbishop Alexander Sample announced in a March 12 statement.

"The governor of the state of Oregon, Kate Brown, has cancelled all public gatherings of more than 250 people. The fact is that most of the Masses celebrated on the weekends in the Archdiocese of Portland are far below that number," Sample added, while announcing several dispensations from the obligation of Catholics to attend Sunday Mass in the archdiocese.

Sample encouraged Catholics over 60 not to attend Mass, along with "persons who are not feeling well, no matter how mild the symptoms," and Catholics "who sincerely and seriously think they might be at risk."

"Persons who have underlying medical issues that put them at risk, or persons with compromised immune systems, are asked not to attend Mass," the archbishop said, dispensing from their Sunday obligation Catholics in each of those groups.

The archbishop's letter said his dispensations would remain in effect until April 8, as the governor had directed. Easter is April 12.

Sample also noted that "The faithful who are in attendance at Mass are reminded to avoid all physical contact with others and should attempt to keep a safe distance from each other."

In addition, the archbishop canceled all parish gatherings of more than 250 people, and urged that "parishes should break down school Masses so as to keep the numbers below 250.

"Even with the above directives in place, some parishes may still have difficulty keeping Mass attendance below 250," the archbishop noted.

"Pastors are encouraged to be creative in managing this situation. Some possibilities would be to encourage the faithful to attend Masses in the parish that are known to be less attended," he wrote.

"Another possibility would be to add Masses to help spread out the numbers at each Mass."

Sample encouraged those who do not attend Sunday Mass to consider attending daily Mass in the parish, and to watch Mass on television or on line. The archbishop also encouraged those not at Mass, or those who do not feel comfortable receiving the Eucharist "due to a fear of contamination" to "make an act of Spiritual Communion."

"This is a beautiful devotional practice in the Church and is a real source of grace in communion with our Lord" the archbishop wrote.

Sample's decision came one day after the Archdiocese of Seattle, which borders the Portland archdiocese, cancelled all public Masses in compliance with a directive from the governor of Washington prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people.

Oregon has 20 documented cases of coronavirus and no recorded deaths, while in Washington, 377 people have contracted the virus and 30 have died.

Across the country, at least 1,504 people have contracted coronavirus, and 39 have died.

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