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Mar 19, 2020

COVID-19 Disrupts Church Service

Churches across the globe are having to suspend services and alter practices during mass to avoid the spread of the corona virus.  Locally, this coming Sunday, masses have been called off in the Anglican Diocese and at Catholic parishes and worshippers are encouraged to attend mass via the internet.  Easter Services are up in the air. As the Catholic Church adapts to the new realities, the shaking of hands and receiving the cup, have been suspended. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.  


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

More than two hundred and forty thousand persons globally are infected with the deadly COVID-19. While the death toll is ten thousand, the number of persons that have recovered so far is more than eighty-six thousand. With its infectious global reach, COVID-19 has forced hundreds of millions of people to change their daily routine and habits. In Belize, several groups have begun making changes and that includes the religious sector. The Roman Catholic Church is taking precautions to limit the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. The distribution of the precious blood from the chalice is suspended. The sign of the peace is suspended as well. Father Brian Christopher, is the priest at St. Martin’s Church and says that Sunday mass has been suspended to comply with the social distancing advice.


Brian Christopher

Father Brian Christopher, Parish Priest, St. Martin’s Church

“No sign of peace. There is no holding hands during the Our Father which is something we tend to do here in Saint Martin’s. The other thing in terms of communion, we receive communion at a one species meaning that people receive the host but people won’t be receiving the cup anymore. Here at Saint Martin’s we’ve decided not to do Sunday masses because our Sunday masses tend to fill up. Instead we are offering three masses through the week and we are asking our parishioners to pick one and go to one and we hope that we will be able to spread things out enough to reduce the risk of transmission. With funerals, we do a lot of funerals at Saint Martin’s and we are anticipating a lot with the recent violence but at this time we cannot do funerals at the church but the priest will be gravesite services.”


The Anglican Diocese of Belize has decided to suspend the next two Sunday services.


Philip Wright

Bishop Philip Wright, Anglican Diocese

“In addition to that we are saying wherever there are gatherings that full hygiene is observed; the constant washing of hands, the distancing. We are trying to encourage a minimum of those kinds of gatherings even throughout the week.”


During the Lenten season, believers gather in worship the most. This poses a threat and with Good Friday and Palm Sunday a few weeks away, church leaders are considering cancelling religions events tied to those days.


Bishop Philip Wright

“We are already at that point where it has not been cancelled yet but certainly it is one of those major things we are looking at in the next couple of weeks as it is only three weeks away and I think in short order we may have to make a decision even for that and Good Friday and Easter. We are looking at the possibility that for all of those major services we may not be able to gather as a faith community.”


Father Brian Christopher

“It is hard to imagine the situation dramatically improving between now and then but we are going to wait t make that decision in the next few weeks, Palm Sunday –all the Holy Week activities.”


And because of COVID-19, church service will now be held online via the social media platforms-Facebook and YouTube.


Father Brian Christopher

“We are going to be live streaming a mass at eight o’clock in the morning. So people can stay at home. They can watch on Facebook or YouTube. They can watch our mass live streaming and come here to receive communion.”


Bishop Philip Wright

“We have partnered with one of the media houses to be able to broadcast live on Sunday and those Sunday services to our people who cannot go out. We have arranged with some of our clergy to do daily morning and evening prayers on Facebook, live stream so that our people can tune in. We are encouraging people to use the prayer books that they have at home, to continue to do the prayers. We are saying to them that this might be a good time now to get the family together and go through these. We kind of look for the silver lining in all of it and in a sense in can be an opportunity to pray together a bit more often or just to live out their faith together in manner that they might not had been doing recently.”


While first world countries work on developing a vaccine, Father Christopher says best decisions are based on accurate information.


Father Brian Christopher

“These are tough times. We don’t know how this is going to play out.  Within the next month I think the world is going to know a lot more about how this virus functions and what sorts of measures work and what sorts of measures works here but in the meantime we are one day at the time and we are kind of making this up as we go along and we make the best decisions that we can given the information that w can.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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