Coronavirus is the latest airborne virus killing people, the virus which started in Asia countries like China has spread across the world. The Catholic church has urged the removal of holy water from the church to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The Catholic Church in Australia has urged restrictions on the way holy communion is given and received at mass, saying parishes should stop distributing wine from the chalice and hand communion wafers to parishioners rather than place it on their tongue.
Holy water will be removed from stoops at church entrances to reduce transmission of the virus.
The restrictions mean that church services this weekend are looming as a key test of Australians’ willingness to modify their behaviour in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Other denominations and faiths are expected to follow suit to ensure their followers can still attend religious services with confidence provided strict hygiene practices are observed.
A statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has listed restrictions and advice on how the church should deal with coronavirus at church services and other activities.
It urges Catholics to use caution and “consider their own health, including any potential to infect others with a contagious disease” before attending mass.
The church estimates that more than 620,000 regularly attend Sunday mass.
While stopping short of recommending against attending mass, the bishops’ statement suggests those who are vulnerable to contracting the virus pray at home or watch mass on television.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide has gone even further, saying “temporary protocols” in its parishes should include disinfecting “shared church surfaces”.
A letter to all parishes from the archdiocese says that while there was no indication of coronavirus spreading in South Australia, the new measures should apply from Sunday.
The Anglican Church in Australia has yet to issue advice, but the Church of England in Britain has urged hygiene protocols for services similar to those recommended by the Catholic Church.
The statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops advises that the communion wafer only be distributed in the hand rather than on the tongue.
“Holy water should be temporarily removed from stoops at the doors of churches to reduce the possibility of transmission of the virus,” the statement said.
“When exchanging the sign of peace, individuals should avoid shaking hands but say ‘Peace be with you’ and offer a smile, wave, nod or bow.”
The statement says that all people serving holy communion “should take particular care to wash their hands before and after distributing”.
“The coronavirus is easily spread through saliva. In celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, it is therefore recommended that the Body of Christ only be administered in the hand because of the high risk of transmission if people continue to receive (it) on the tongue,” it says.
“Ministers should seek to avoid contact with the communicant’s hands.
“The faithful who are too unwell to attend Sunday mass — whether due to coronavirus or some other condition — or are at particular risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus can honour their Sunday obligation by participating in a time of prayer within the home, reading the scriptures or watching mass on television.
“Catholics may be reassured that, should they contract COVID-19 and become seriously ill, priests will continue to ensure they receive the sacraments and other appropriate pastoral care.”