Holy water and shaking hands now off limits

AS ATTEMPTS to contain the spread of the coronavirus are stepped up across the world, local churches are taking steps to protect their parishioners.
Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland have issued guidelines to local parishes on how to help prevent the spread of infection at gatherings such as Masses and services, with St Patrick’s Day around the corner and Easter just over a month away.
Bishop Larry Duffy of the Catholic Clogher Diocese has issued a document to all parishes in the area for “guidance.” The guidelines include urging people who feel unwell after visiting an area affected by the coronavirus, or who been at a healthcare facility where the virus, patients are being treated, not to attend Mass or other services.
Other guidelines included instructing parishioners not to use holy water fonts, ensuring Eucharistic Ministers wash their hands before distributing Holy Communion, and instructing them to administer Holy Communion into hands only, not on the tongue.
The Bishop also asked parishes to supply tissues and alcohol-based hand gel at Masses and other gatherings, and to ensure all hard surface that are frequently touched are properly cleaned regularly.
The local Church of Ireland has issued very similar guidelines, also urging parishioners to stay home if they have flu-like symptoms and providing guidelines on administering Holy Communion.
Parishes have been told physical interaction at services, such as the Sign of Peace, should also be suspended, as should shaking hands on greeting and departing services and gatherings.
Finally, it is not just parishioners who need protection, but priests and ministers too, with clergy regularly visiting the sick in the community.
“The Church’s duty of care extends to members of the clergy,” said a CoI spokesman. “If you have influenza-type symptoms, do not call the clergy for pastoral visitation. Pastoral support for parishioners who are unable to attend church services should be provided by telephone or online, such as Skype.”

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