In a popular Catholic church in the Philippines, nearly half of the pews were empty for Sunday Mass. The few hundred worshippers who showed up were asked to refrain from shaking others’ hands or holding them during prayers to prevent the spread of the virus that started in China.
In Hong Kong, Cardinal John Hon Tong, wearing a mask, announced the suspension of public Masses for two weeks and urged churchgoers to instead watch them online.
Buddhist temples, Christian churches and Muslim mosques have been ordered closed since Jan. 29 in mainland China, where the new coronavirus strain was first detected in the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Mosques have canceled weekly Friday prayers since January under an order to avoid “collective religious activities.”
Religious leaders should encourage Muslims to “trust the party” and avoid crowds, the Communist Party-controlled body that oversees China’s officially authorized mosques said in a statement.
The restrictions and dwindling crowds in religiously diverse places of worship underscore the extent of the scare over the outbreak that has permeated many aspects of life in the hard-hit Asian region.
Faith in an outbreak’s shadow: Houses of worship in mainland China are closed. Protective cloth is over the grills in confessional boxes in the Philippines. Crowds have thinned at popular Japanese and Thai temples. https://t.co/hXPJ2u9TMY
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 15, 2020