The Diocese of Buffalo suspended parish events and larger celebrations, including confirmations and Lenten penance services until the end of March, it announced in a statement released Sunday morning.
The diocese awaits further guidance from Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale R. Burstein.
Mass will continue to be offered publicly as announced or scheduled, contingent on emergency governmental restrictions regarding larger gatherings.
In response to concerns about the spread of the virus, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger last week told the region’s more than 500,000 Catholics they are not required to attend Masses.
At St. Amelia’s in the Town of Tonawanda– one of the largest parishes in the Buffalo diocese – congregants numbered far below normal levels Sunday morning, according to a Buffalo News reporter who attended the Mass. Those at the morning Mass also noticed a number of changes from normal procedures, including no holy water and no more placing of Holy Communion wafers on the tongues of worshipers. Worshipers were also making sure to sit far away from others in attendance, except for members of their own families.
Parish members were asked not to touch each other when giving the weekly sign of peace. Instead of shaking hands or hugging, most parishioners were nodding to each other, waving or giving the peace sign.
Worshipers are also asked to take advantage of live-streamed Masses offered at various churches.