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Diocese of St. Petersburg suspends public Masses to protect the faithful from coronavirus

Bishop Gregory Parkes also urged Catholics to make 'prudent decisions' about weddings and funerals.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — For millions of Catholics around the world, it's as much a family tradition as it is a religious requirement.

But as the coronavirus continues to spread, the Diocese of St. Petersburg is canceling Mass. 

"Effective immediately, I have decided to suspend the public celebration of Masses in the Diocese of St. Petersburg until it can be determined that it is safe to return to normal schedules and public worship," Bishop Gregory Parkes told the faithful Wednesday in a video message.

The bishop also directed local parishes to suspend confirmations, public penance services, social events and ministry gatherings -- unless the pastor decides they are essential.

That means certain charitable ministries will be allowed to continue.

The bishop urged the faithful to make "prudent decisions" about weddings and funerals by limiting them to immediate family members.

"Baptisms are to be celebrated in cases of emergency only," Parkes said.

He also asked the faithful to continue their generosity so the church can continue to help those most in need.

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