"Our unity, solidarity and respect for each other are especially important today," the bishops said in a statement.

"In light of the seriousness of the situation we are faced with and the restrictions announced by the country's authorities, we have decided to suspend public services in churches from December 16 to January 3," they said.

The faithful are encouraged to watch services online, on TV or radio.

However, churches will remain open to private prayer and to funerals and other services attended only by immediate family members, according to the statement.

Tightened lockdown restrictions will take effect in Lithuania as of Wednesday, including a ban on people to leave their homes except for essential needs, the closure of non-food shops, and intercity travel restrictions.