Catholic Church guidance on Containment of and Protection from the Coronavirus –
Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCov, commonly referred to as COVID-19, is a new virus in the human population, and more information is becoming available every day. At the time of writing, we are not in a pandemic and our efforts are focused on containing the virus and protecting parishioners.
As people of faith we have a responsibility to be aware of the facts and here are the facts as we know them about the Coronavirus:
· It is not from the same family of viruses as the seasonal flu.
· It can have similar symptoms to the flu such as high temperature (fever), coughing or breathing difficulties.
· It is difficult to identify the illness on symptoms alone and so laboratory tests are needed to identify those infected by the virus.
The following guidelines are offered to clergy and congregations in order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to protect parishioners throughout the Catholic Church in Ireland. These guidelines will be kept under review and informed by that latest updates from the health authorities, North and South:
The celebration of Mass and Church liturgies
· Those with virus symptoms are dispensed from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass
· Members of the clergy and congregations who feel ill should self-isolate and stay at home for fourteen days
· Only the Celebrant should drink from the Chalice. For the time being the Chalice should not be shared with Concelebrants, Ministers of the Eucharist, or members of the congregation
· Holy Communion should be received into the hand and not onto the tongue
· For Ministers of the Eucharist, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene can reduce the spread of infections. This means thoroughly washing and sanitising your hands with disinfectant gel before and after distributing Holy Communion
· Whilst the exchange of the Sign of Peace involves a low risk of spreading the virus, it should for the present be suspended as a precaution
· To avoid facilitating the spread of infection, the use of Holy Water fonts should be suspended
Church life in general
· Sanitised gel dispensers should be available in church entrances and in church premises
· All hard surfaces that are frequently touched, such as door handles, hand rails, taps, should be frequently cleaned with antiseptic
· When you cough, or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or with the bend in your elbow. Provide bins for the collection of used tissues and properly dispose of them
· Gatherings, whether on church premises or not, such as pilgrimages, should follow these guidelines in terms of hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene
· Have a parish plan prepared for continuing the ministering of the Sacraments in the event of traditional methods being suspended, for example, celebrating Mass via webcam or by radio broadcasts; offering pastoral visits by phone/cam; following infection control advice for ‘First Friday’ visits and/or when ministering the Sacrament of the Sick