Bishop Michael McCarthy.
Bishop Michael McCarthy.

Church implements mass changes amid virus concerns

HOLY water has been removed from churches and handshakes are to be avoided as the Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton takes precautions against coronavirus.

Bishop Michael McCarthy has released a letter with his advice.

"For now, holy water will be removed from the doors of churches, 'peace be with you' will come with a nod, smile or bow rather than the traditional handshake and even holy communion will take on a different form for now," he wrote.

The Rev McCarthy's letter said the diocese - which includes Gladstone - had been monitoring the spread of coronavirus and its impact and had adopted the following practices for worship services:

• Individuals should consider their own health, including any potential to infect others before attending a public liturgical celebration

• Holy water should be temporarily removed from stoups at the doors of churches to reduce the possibility of virus transmission but should be available for people to take home

• Parishes and other settings where liturgies are celebrated should make alcohol-based gels or rubs available

• When exchanging the sign of peace, individuals should avoid shaking hands but say "peace be with you" with a smile, wave, nod or bow

• All ministers of holy communion should take care to wash their hands before and after distributing

• Parishes should cease distributing holy communion from the chalice until further notice. The faithful should be reminded that Christ is fully present under either species

• In celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, it is recommended the Body of Christ only be administered in the hand because of the high risk of transmission to receive on the tongue. Ministers should seek to avoid contact with the communicant's hands

• The faithful who are too unwell to attend Sunday mass or are at particular risk of contracting coronavirus can honour Sunday obligations with a time of prayer at home, reading the Scriptures or watching mass on television or online

• All involved in other parish ministries, particularly to the sick and elderly, refrain from undertaking ministry if they feel unwell or believe they could have been exposed to the virus. Hand washing should be undertaken before and after and individuals should follow the advice and practices of the local health authority

• Collectors and those who handle and count money may consider wearing gloves, in addition to hand washing, while the virus is in the community

• If you have travelled to Italy, Iran, South Korea or China in the past 14 days and know you have been exposed to the virus, it is best to self-quarantine and stay at home.

Within the Rockhampton Diocese, the 9.30am Sunday mass from St Joseph's Cathedral can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/user/StJosephsCathRton.



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