Since the announcement of the suspension of Masses and large gatherings on 14 Feb, many questions have been raised. This interview with Archbishop William Goh offers us an insight to how the decision was made and what is being done to prepare for the resumption of public Masses.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to pneumonia (a more severe lung infection). There are now 7 types of coronaviruses which cause disease in humans: 4 cause common cold; 2 cause serious disease (SARS, MERS); the latest coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causes COVID-19 disease.
Fever and cough are the most common symptoms. Other symptoms include sore throat and fatigue. Symptoms can be mild and fever may be absent or occur later during the illness, and many cases are similar to the common cold. Breathlessness is a more serious and severe symptom.
Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 is mostly spread via droplets. The virus is carried within droplets emitted from an infected person over a short distance (<1m), such as when the person coughs, sneezes, or talks or sings loudly. If these droplets come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth of another person, be it through direct inoculation or indirect contact with hands that have come into contact with these droplets, the other person may become infected.
Prolonged close contact with infected persons is generally required. The cases in Singapore are predominantly household clusters, or in closed settings (e.g. shared meals, Grace Assembly of God). More than 1,000 suspect cases have been tested negative.
Nonetheless, the virus may survive outside the body for 2-3 days, depending on the climate/environmental conditions.
Therefore, members of the public are advised to remain vigilant and observe good personal hygiene, frequent hand washing, and avoid touching contaminated surfaces then touching their face.
Airborne transmission means that infectious droplets are much smaller, remain suspended in the air and thus can travel much further distances. If that were the case, we would have observed many, many more cases. This is not supported by the current pattern of spread seen in Singapore. More than 1,000 suspect cases have tested negative.
The risk is much less likely as the people who have no symptoms would not be coughing or sneezing to produce respiratory droplets. In addition, there is no good evidence of such spread from cases in Singapore, China or other countries. Otherwise, we would expect to have many more “unlinked” cases. In Singapore, no contact exposed during the pre-symptomatic stage has been infected so far.
The situation is evolving and many characteristics of the virus and how it may affect people are still unclear.
Asymptomatic and mild cases may not be reported. Taking a conservative 1:1 ratio of reported to unreported cases, most cases (>90%) are asymptomatic or mild. After about a week of mild illness, some persons (<10%) develop lung infection with some breathlessness.
Some of these cases (<2%) worsen and require care in the Intensive Care Unit. The overall fatality rate may be less than 1%. In comparison, SARS had a fatality rate of about 9.6%.
The highest fatality rate is found in persons >80 years of age; the lowest fatality rate is found in persons <40 years of age. There has been no fatality reported in children <10 years old so far.
Most of those affected in Singapore only need symptomatic and/or supportive treatment (e.g. oxygen supplementation), and have full recovery within 2 weeks.
A few cases with severe disease have been given an antiviral drug used for HIV treatment as part of a trial. These seem to have positive outcomes, but will require further study and research. Other drugs are also being studied.
About the Sunday Obligation
Catholics are obliged to assist at Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation (Canon 1247). When this is not possible for a grave reason, “the faithful are strongly recommended to take part in a liturgy of the Word…celebrated in accordance with the provisions laid down by the diocesan Bishop; or to spend an appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or, as occasion presents, in a group of families.” (Canon 1248)
No. One basic principle of Canon Law is that no one is obliged to do the impossible. You have not sinned if:
- Mass is not available; or
- It is not possible for you to attend for grave reasons (eg. travel, sickness, or caring for family members).
No, Catholics are not obliged to receive Holy Communion at every Mass they attend. The canonical requirement is once a year (Canon 920) for those who are properly disposed.
Catholics whose state in life does not permit them to receive Holy Communion (eg. unconfessed mortal sin, irregular marital situation) are still welcome at Mass and are invited to make a Spiritual Communion instead.
The Eucharist is true bread from heaven for our journey towards Eternal Life. When “it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by St John Paul II and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 55).
Frequent spiritual communion keeps us close to Christ by sustaining and deepening our desire to receive Him. During the Mass broadcast, there will be an opportunity to make a spiritual communion in lieu of physical communion. You may use the prayer by St. Alphonsus Liguori, or express these sentiments in your own words:
My Jesus, I believe You are truly present in the most Blessed Sacrament.
I love You above all things and I desire to possess You within my soul.
Since I am unable now to receive You Sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as being already there, and I unite myself wholly to You;
never permit me to be separated from You.
Spiritual Communion doesn’t replace Sacramental Communion at Mass.
Spiritual Communion is an expression of our love for God. It doesn’t have to be practiced when there is no mass. You can make a Spiritual Communion as a preparation for mass as well. Spiritual Communion can be done everywhere. Driving to work, on the MRT, everywhere. How often can you express your love for God? As often as you wish. As often as you need God. As long as you feel you want to say a loving word to Jesus. (Fr Ignatius Yeo on KopiTalk, CatholicSG Radio)
About the broadcast Mass
No. Catholics may opt to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, read Scripture, conduct a private prayer service (https://www.catholic.sg/prayer-service-at-home/), or pray traditional devotions such as the Rosary or Novena. A good rule of thumb is to set aside at least half an hour for Sunday worship.
Access to parish churches and the Sacraments
On 27 May 2020, Archbishop wrote a Pastoral Letter on Gradual Resumption of Religious in Phase 1. Please have a read.
As there are many restrictions placed still, it is best to check in with your individual Parishes for latest updates and activities.
Yes. Please contact your parish directly to request the sacraments and for further queries on weddings and funeral services. All are reminded to observe the public health guidelines as laid down by the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force
In alignment with the updated Ministry of Health advisories, we continue to recommend that non-essential events to be cancelled or deferred. If suitable, these may be replaced by online activities.
For all other essential parish organised events, the following precautionary measures must be observed:
- Public education is paramount;
- Remind participants not to attend the event if they are unwell, even if the symptoms are mild.
- Perform temperature screening and look out for respiratory symptoms (i.e. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose) amongst participants;
- If possible, participants should make a Health declaration that they do not have symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose.
- Deny entry to unwell participants;
- Maintain a registration list of participants for contact tracing;
- Practise social distancing by seating the participants at least 1 meter from each other.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning of commonly used areas.
Any wedding or funeral Masses and services are to be conducted privately with guests limited to immediate family members and close friends. Please contact your parish priest for further details. In all cases, the usual measures will need to be implemented, namely health declaration, temperature screening, contact tracing, social distancing by seating the participants at least 1 meter from each other.
All Masses with a congregation are suspended till further notice. Priests are still required to offer Masses in private, without a congregation present, for the spiritual good of the Church, the intentions of the faithful, and the alleviation of the present crisis.
Priests continue to celebrate private Masses daily for the Mass intentions that are offered. Please refer to the parish where you have offered Mass/Masses for more information.
The Church does not allow confession to be done in this manner. However, your sins are already forgiven when you make the act of perfect contrition.
“Whoever can, should receive the Sacrament of Penance. Whoever cannot, because of prohibiting circumstances, should cleanse his soul by acts of perfect contrition: i.e., the sorrow of a loving child who does not consider so much the pain or reward as he does the pardon from his father and mother to whom he has brought displeasure.” – St Maximilian Kolbe
Catholic teaching distinguishes a twofold hatred of sin:
- perfect contrition, rises from the love of God Who has been grievously offended; the other,
- imperfect contrition, arises principally from some other motives, such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, the heinousness of sin, etc (Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, ch. iv de Contritione, The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Contrition”).
When we go to confession, imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive the pardon of our sins. However, in extraordinary circumstances where [when] we cannot get to confession, we can make an act of perfect contrition, which is sufficient to have our sins forgiven.
Important: The act of perfect contrition includes the desire for the sacrament of Penance (or Reconciliation) and the intention to receive sacramental confession at the very first opportunity.
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.