MUMBAI: Bombay high court was told on Friday there will be no public mass in Catholic churches in Mumbai till April 4. A bench of acting Chief Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Nitin Borkar was informed by senior advocate Joaquim Reis, representing the Archdiocese of Bombay through Oswald Cardinal Gracias, that “as of today, till April 4, there will be no public mass”. Questioned if there was a difference between “a mass and public mass”, Reis replied, “A private mass is conducted by a priest in his own room.”
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The court heard a PIL, converted out of a letter by advocate Savina Crasto, a parishioner of Our Lady of Seven Dolours Church, Sonapur, Marine Lines, on daily masses being held despite the state prohibiting mass gatherings due to coronavirus.
Reis denied masses were being conducted by churches. “We have been taking steps to stop masses. We are doing our best since March 5 (when a circular was issued by the archbishop on preventive measures),” said Reis. Advocates Sandeep Parikh and Neha Mehta, for Sonapur parish priest Fr Anthony D’Souza, also said no masses will be held. Crasto said it would suffice for now as an undertaking was given by both respondents.
The church’s affidavit listed steps taken, including suspending services at St Michael Church, Mahim, anticipating a gathering of thousands. It said that “in light of the changing situation, to protect and safeguard all faithful and humanity as a whole, and in support of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, including his request to observe a ‘janata curfew’, the archbishop “has directed this morning that all masses will be suspended from March 21 till further notice”.
Government pleader Priyabhushan Kakade said on Thursday evening that police had to stop mass at the Sonapur church. In their order, the judges noted, “It is not necessary for this court to go into the disputed issue about the past at this stage.” Recording categorical statements that “till April 4, 2020, there will be no public mass in church”, they posted the matter for further consideration on April 7. Crasto and the government can “move for appropriate orders… if any occasion arises”.
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