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Catholic, Episcopal Churches Are Suspending Services

WHEELING — Leaders of both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches in West Virginia have taken the “unprecedented” step to suspend services due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The Most Rev. Mark Brennan, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, announced the suspension of services — both for Sunday obligation and daily Masses — beginning this weekend.

“While I do not want to contribute to panic reactions, I think it wise to listen to our public health officials when they recommend certain steps to keep our people safe and healthy,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the diocese plans to broadcast daily Mass through its website, dwc.org, and on television in Wheeling and Clarksburg.

Meanwhile, the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, Episcopal bishop of West Virginia, said his church was “struggling with the same issues” and discussed the situation with Brennan. It was after learning that Gov. Jim Justice had closed schools in the state’s 55 counties that they agreed the right choice was for both religious organizations to suspend services because of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“For both Bishop Brennan and myself, that seemed to turn the tide. In nearly 40 years in the ordained ministry, and nearly 20 years as bishop of West Virginia, I have never canceled a church service,” Klusmeyer said in a written statement.

“But we appear to be in a new environment.”

Klusmeyer said they have decided to cease services “for the foreseeable future” and that they will “revisit this daily” after two weeks.

“The COVID-19 appears to have many baffled,” he said. “Responses are coming, but the one common aspect is that social gatherings should be limited.”

Brennan said the decision would be a “hardship” for the parishioners not to be able to worship at Mass, but that the church did not have a choice.

“We can look on this development as a penance we do together during this Lenten season and offer our disappointment and suffering up to God,” he said.

Brennan also announced that all Catholic schools and child-care facilities would be closed indefinitely.

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