PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is taking additional precautionary steps amid growing Coronavirus concerns.
Those steps include limiting large gatherings, suspending all non-essential school and extracurricular activities and making Lenten fish frys "take-out only."
Diocese officials say they have cancelled all non-essential, diocesan-sponsored gatherings, starting on Monday.
However, Masses, confessions, religious education and Catholic school classes will continue pending further developments. Some students are being encouraged though to take their books and electronics home to be ready in case of cancellations and closures.
The Diocese is also asking all parishes to make their Fish Frys "take-out only" events because of the health concerns. They are advising the parishes to consult with their county health department on hygiene tips.
In a statement, Bishop David Zubik said: "As a Catholic faith community, in times of uncertainty our first response is to pray for guidance and grace to meet the challenges of the day. In creating policies and procedures related to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), we join people from around the world who are working through the same things. As a people of action, our focus will be on what steps we can take to protect all that we love. Working together in our communities, schools, and homes, as we always do, will sustain us through any level of challenge."
Friday fish frys during Lent have been a staple on the Pittsburgh scene for generations, usually hosted by local churches.
"This is not a normal time," Catholic Bishop David Zubik told KDKA's Jon Delano on Thursday. "And we have to be in a position where we are taking great care to avoid a catastrophe."
He went on to say, "It was strongly recommended that the fish frys would be done on a take-out to reduce the numbers of people because the fish fries are wildly popular all over the place," said the Bishop.
Zubik said the final decision was up to the parish leaders.
"[I] trust that the leadership of every parish is going to make a decision based on what's important for the common good."
Now, again, the bishop is recommending, not requiring, that fish fries at churches be take-out only.
There's no indication of how many churches will follow his advice.
The Diocese is continuing to operate under guidelines for Mass, like temporarily suspending communion wine and shaking hands during the sign of peace.
More information on the Coronavirus pandemic:
- CDC Coronavirus Information
- CDC Global Map of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
- Pennsylvania Department of Health Information
- Allegheny County Health Department Information
Over at St. Bernard School in Mount Lebanon, a member of the school community is self-quarantining. They will be staying away from the school for the next 14 days out of an "abundance of caution."
They say there is no reason to believe the school has been exposed to any virus.
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.
for more features.