Despite the low risk to the public from Coronavirus at the time of writing, the Bishops of England and Wales have issued guidelines to enable Catholic parishes, schools and organisations to find the relevant information in one place.
As things stand, there is no need for the Chalice to be withdrawn or the Sign of Peace suspended. Should that become necessary, more detailed pastoral care guidance will be issued.
More information is available on the Bishops’ Conference site, where the guidelines may be downloaded.
Key things for parishes to do include the following:
- Ensure everyone maintains good hygiene especially at Mass and parish gatherings.
- Ask anyone with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from taking Communion from the Chalice, and receive the host on the hand only. (We should be doing this anyway, every ‘flu season.)
- Ensure Ministers of the Eucharist wash or sanitise their hands before and after
distributing Communion. (We should be doing this anyway as a matter of course.) This can be done by washing hands discreetly before proceeding to the sanctuary or using good quality hand gel discreetly.
- Ensure good regular cleaning of surfaces lots of people touch regularly.
- Combat discrimination against Chinese people and others wrongly assumed to have or to be spreading the virus.
- When carrying out home visits to parishioners, clergy and ministers should wash hands before and after giving the sacraments.
- Pastoral visits to people who are self-isolating should be replaced with the offer of telephone support until the isolation period ends.
“As Catholics we reiterate the commitment of the Church to health care ministry. Ensuring we disrupt the spread of the virus is core to effective mission. Part of this is reassurance that we have no cause for fear.”
Bishop Paul Mason
Lead Bishop for Healthcare