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The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has suspended all public masses to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced the suspension Wednesday in accordance with recommendations from state officials, who stressed that all congregational meetings should avoided over the next two weeks, which they say are critical for containing the virus.

"I have made the difficult decision to suspend all regularly scheduled public celebrations of mass in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, effective immediately," Hebda said in a statement. "While I am sure that the advice is startling for those of any creed, it particularly hits hard for Catholics, given our belief about the mass and the eucharist."

Catholics should not let missing mass weigh on their conscience during this time, Hebda said.

Limited exceptions to the suspension may be made if there is a need for a funeral or wedding mass during this span, Hebda said. The decision to suspend masses will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Archdiocese priests will still offer masses daily that parishioners may tune into remotely, the archbishop said. Parishioners are encouraged to be "spiritually united" in praying for the strength of their church, Hebda said, noting that many parishes broadcast their services online, over the radio or on television.

Confessions will continue to be heard, with appropriate precautions taken.

"It pains my heart to have to make this decision since I know how many of you deeply love the mass as I do," Hebda said.