MASSES will be suspended across the Diocese of Down and Connor, which includes Ballymena, from Wednesday, March 18.
St Patrick’s Day Mass tomorrow will go ahead as planned.
In a statement released late on Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for the Dioceses said: “From Wednesday, March 18 , the public celebration of Mass is suspended in all Churches in the Diocese.
“This includes all religious houses where the public may attend and special gatherings of the faithful.
“All the faithful are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of obligation”.
Upcoming Confirmations, First Confessions and First Holy Communions remain suspended until further notice.
Weddings may continue to be celebrated until further notice.
Couples and their guests are asked to adhere to public health advice, and we encourage them to limit those attending to immediate family and loved ones. Parishes and clergy will facilitate those couples who wish to discuss the arrangements for their marriage ceremony or postpone it to a later date.
Baptisms will continue to be celebrated until further notice, with the modifications to the liturgy set in the accompanying document in place.
Families are requested to restrict those attending to the parents and godparents of the child only.
All are requested to adhere to public health advice. Parishes will liaise with parents who wish to postpone planned baptisms.
Until further notice, funerals will continue. Bereaved families are requested to restrict attendees at the funeral to close family and loved ones only.
Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor issued the following statement: “The world-wide outbreak of the coronavirus reveals the fragility of human existence and the reality of suffering.
“This crisis reminds us that we all part of one global family.
“I have no doubt that many of you are fearful and anxious as you reflect on the potential personal, familial and societal impact of the virus.
“You are worrying about your personal health and the welfare of loved ones. You realise the vulnerability of the young, the aged and those with underlying health conditions. As a society, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we face these anxieties and fears together.
“This is a time for us, the People of God to pray, recognizing the broken body of Christ in those who are suffering. This is a time for us to bring a message of hope and to care for those who are feeling isolated and distressed”.
The Bishop urged parishioners to keep civic leaders, scientists and health-care workers; doctors, pharmacists, nurses, all working in hospitals and health administration, hospital chaplains, counsellors, administrators and volunteers, as well as the clergy, in their prayers.
He added: “Changes to the public Celebration of Mass, the sacraments, and pastoral care, alongside the many activities that take place in parishes are necessary to protect society from the transmission of illness. These measures are also necessary to safeguard the welfare of clergy and religious in these changing times.
“On this Feast of St Patrick, we are reminded of his prayer of protection.
“In his prayer, St Patrick assures a despondent Irish people of the ever-present God, especially in times of adversity”.
For a full list of measures and the full copy of Bishop’s speech please the Down and Connor website.