FAQs on the Suspension of Mass (Singapore)

About Covid-19

1. What are coronaviruses?

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.

2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

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.

3. How does COVID-19 spread?

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.

4. Can COVID-19 be spread via airborne transmission?

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.

5. Can the virus be transmitted even when a carrier is asymptomatic? Would this mean that you can catch the virus from people in church even if they don’t have symptoms?

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.

6. Is the disease deadly? How is this compared to SARS?

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.

7. What treatment is available for affected persons?

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

8. What exactly is 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)

9. Since Masses are suspended, am I sinning because I cannot attend Mass?

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).
10. Aren’t we supposed to receive Holy Communion every Sunday?

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.

11. What is a Spiritual Communion?

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.

12. How often can one make a Spiritual Communion?

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)

13. When will Masses resume?

Archbishop William Goh will make the decision based on advice from the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force, in consultation with, the Ministry of Health, and other relevant experts.

About the broadcast Mass

14. Is it compulsory to watch 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.

15. I woke up late and missed the Mass broadcast. What can I do?

Since the Mass is pre-recorded for broadcast, you can access the recording at any time at www.catholic.sg/mass

16. How should I prepare myself for a televised Mass?

This article offers tips on preparing your home and family for the viewing: https://www.catholic.sg/5-ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-televised-mass/

Access to parish churches and the Sacraments

17. Will the parishes and Adoration Rooms across Singapore still be open for private prayer?

Please go to this page for more information.

18. Will other sacraments such as Baptism, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick still be available?

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

19. Can Catholics continue to meet in church or at other locations?

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:

  1. Public education is paramount;
  2. Remind participants not to attend the event if they are unwell, even if the symptoms are mild.
  3. Perform temperature screening and look out for respiratory symptoms (i.e. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose) amongst participants;
  4. If possible, participants should make a Health declaration that they do not have symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose.
  5. Deny entry to unwell participants;
  6. Maintain a registration list of participants for contact tracing;
  7. Practise social distancing by seating the participants at least 1 meter from each other.
  8. Increase the frequency of cleaning of commonly used areas.
20. How can we support our parishes financially since there are no Offertory collections?

During these extraordinary times, you can still contribute to the Church by contacting your parish, or the various Church organisations directly for details, or refer to this page to contribute through PayNow.

To contribute to the Catholic Foundation, please click here

21. What about wedding and funeral Masses and services?

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.

22. What about private Masses? Can priests celebrate Masses with a small congregation present?

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.

[undated, after Feb. 14]