LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville will not be celebrating public mass out of concern over the COVID-19 virus.

In a news release Monday, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz announced that he is calling on all priests to suspend the public celebration of mass in the archdiocese effective immediately and until further notice. The move comes at the height of the Lenten season.

Kurtz said pastors told him how concerned they and their parishioners were about the threat of the virus. So he is suggesting the faithful recite the Holy Rosary and find creative ways to keep churches accessible for prayer, as long as there are safeguards for social distancing. 

The archdiocese said it will issue guidance soon to answer how it will handle funerals, weddings and social service outreach to parishioners in need.

Pope Francis left the Vatican on Sunday to make a surprise visit to two churches in Rome to pray for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that came even as Italian health authorities insisted people stay home as much as possible to limit contagion in the heart of Europe's outbreak.

The 83-year-old pope's prayerful walk came just hours after the Holy See announced that the Vatican's Holy Week ceremonies will go ahead without the public as Italy tries to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

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