ST. CLOUD -- The Diocese of St. Cloud has suspended all services throughout the Diocese through Easter Monday, April 13 in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In an email sent Tuesday, Bishop Donald Kettler called the decision "difficult" but said he and his staff feel the decision is necessary in order to protect the people of central Minnesota from the spread of COVID-19.

The suspension covers all weekday and weekend masses, baptisms, funeral masses, confirmations, public Holy Week liturgies and other activities.

"While the threat in your community may not be readily visible, it is very real," said Kettler. "I believe these steps are necessary during this national emergency to protect human life and uphold the common good — two foundational principles of Catholic social teaching. While it may seem counterintuitive, we stay in solidarity with one another at this time by staying apart."

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Kettler encourages people to check in on loved ones and friends by phone, email and social media.

Pastors will be notified by the Diocese in coming weeks if there are any changes to the suspension plan.