FARGO — The bishop of the Diocese of Fargo has canceled all public celebrations of Mass, sacraments and parish events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishop John Folda said the directive will be effective at noon Wednesday, March 18, throughout the diocese's more than 130 parishes in 30 counties in eastern North Dakota until further notice.

He also said funerals, weddings and baptisms will be held but only with 10 or fewer people.

For funerals, he said the rite of committal may be celebrated at the gravesite, with a public funeral arranged at a later date.

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Confessions may be arranged with a local priest, as long as the space allows for both social distancing and confidentiality.

All parish religious education classes are canceled, and Catholic schools are closed. Schools will make their own arrangements for online or in-home instruction.

Priests are to continue saying Mass "privately" each day "insofar as possible," and parishes that normally keep their churches open during the day should stay open so members can enter for private prayer, the bishop said.

The bishop also said, "as Catholics we have a serious responsibility, not only in charity, but in justice, to prevent the spread of this disease to those who are most vulnerable."

He asked for prayers for all of those who were ill or affected by COVID-19 and offered his blessing to those working tirelessly in health care, emergency management and other essential services.