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Ohio bishops make recommendations for Catholics, Methodists

In light of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive order to avoid large gatherings to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the East Ohio Conference Methodist Bishop urges closing of Methodist churches for two weeks, while the Catholic Bishops of Ohio announced that Catholic faithful in the Buckeye State will not be obligated to attend Sunday Mass for the remaining weekends of March.

Bishop Tracy Malone of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church has canceled public worship services through March 27.

According to a statement on the EOCMC website Malone said “Yesterday I asked all pastors and every congregation to do everything necessary to protect and care for the health and the well being of our faith communities and our communities at large in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic crisis.”

Malone said discussions with several healthcare sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health, helped her make the decision.

A statement this week from the Ohio Catholic bishops reads: “Even though religious gatherings are expressly excluded in the order but of concern for the common good and the physical as well as spiritual wellbeing of all of the people of Ohio, have agreed to cooperate with the governor’s direction to create social distance.

“Out of charity and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we encourage all the faithful, in particular those who are sick, experiencing symptoms of illness or are at risk of illness seriously to consider refraining from Mass attendance.

“As much as possible, we would like to see parish Mass schedules remain unchanged to allow the faithful to offer worship to almighty God and receive the great grace of the sacraments during this trying time; however, we recognize that this may not be possible because many of our senior priests may themselves be at risk. We ask for understanding and flexibility in this regard,” the bishops’ statement reads.

The bishops state they ask for prayers for all who are suffering from illness or disease of any kind, and for an easing of the tension caused by this COVID-19 situation.

Malone said it is extremely important that if small groups or classes were to gather for the well being of participants that extreme care be taken to make sure that people meet in cleansed spaces, that they maintain social distance by sitting with spaces between them, and that extra care be given for those who are older or have health vulnerabilities.

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