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No Masses, Ash Wednesday liturgy in Korean archdiocese

With reports of the Covid-19 virus spreading from religious gatherings, a South Korean archdiocese has suspended all Masses for three weeks and effectively cancelled Ash Wednesday liturgy — a week after Hong Kong Diocese took a similar decision.

Archbishop Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil of Daegu in an urgent directive on Feb. 19 banned all church gatherings, including Masses, for three weeks until March 5. The directive applies to all parishes and religious houses under his jurisdiction.

The decision comes after new cases of infections were reported from Christian gatherings in the archdiocesan area.

On Feb. 19, South Korea reported its first death from the coronavirus epidemic.

South Korea reported 82 infections on Feb. 19 but 51 were new cases reported on that day and the previous day. Of the 51, at least 37 cases were reported from the Daegu area and in people who attended prayer programs of a Christian sect popularly called Shincheonji, local reports said.

Experts linked the new infections to a member of the sect, identified only as the 31st patient. The 61-year-old woman, who tested positive early this week, reportedly attended prayer programs before and after she had symptoms of virus infection.

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