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Church’s Rome temple to close, Seattle-area stake cancels meetings due to coronavirus

The Rome Italy Temple in Rome, Italy, on Monday, March 11, 2019.
The Rome Italy Temple is pictured on Monday, March 11, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Rome Italy Temple will close beginning Friday in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the Europe Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday.

Meanwhile, a stake north of Seattle, Washington, has canceled all church activities and church worship services through Sunday in accordance with a government request to cancel or postpone nonessential large gatherings because of COVID-19.

The Rome temple, which opened in March 2019 after President Russell M. Nelson met with Pope Francis and dedicated the temple, is the fifth closed by church officials as they work with governments around the world to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The temple had been scheduled to close March 21 for its annual cleaning, a process that generally takes a few weeks.

The decision to close was reached “in light of the latest developments related to the coronavirus and by virtue of the desire to align with the recent directives issued by the Italian government regarding the closure of universities and schools,” the release said.

A limited number of temple marriages and other ordinances for the living that had been scheduled previously will go on, according to a news release posted on the church’s Italy Newsroom.

The church previously closed the Taipei Taiwan Temple, the Seoul Korea Temple, the Fukuoka Japan Temple and the Sapporo Japan Temple. Church officials have said they also would have closed the Hong Kong China Temple and Tokyo Japan Temple if they had not already been closed for renovations.

Bothell Washington Stake President Kenneth Williams confirmed that his Seattle-area stake has canceled sacrament meetings and other activities for the rest of the week and on Sunday to follow guidelines published by King County health officials.

Last weekend, Latter-day Saint worship services were canceled or limited in 16 countries. The United States would be the 17th nation where prevention measures have curtailed Sunday services.

“If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings,” the county recommended in an advisory posted Thursday on its blog.

King County has 2.2 million residents. It has 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 confirmed deaths.

The Seattle area has a significant Latter-day Saint population, with several stakes.

One ward in the Bothell Stake canceled a scheduled temple trip for youth. However, smaller gatherings like presidency meetings, interviews and ministering visits are allowed, Williams said.

Williams asked families and individual members to study the church’s “Come, Follow Me” curriculum, listen to church leaders’ talks or do family history work in place of Sunday meetings.

Seminary classes for teenagers will follow the local school schedule. Schools in the stake’s area, and therefore seminary classes, were closed on Thursday.