As you have certainly heard by now, the first cases of Coronavirus connected to the State of Connecticut have been reported and linked to Fairfield County. Now that the virus has been identified within the Diocese of Bridgeport, I feel it is not only prudent but necessary to issue some updated directives to those I issued last Tuesday.
Before addressing the directives, I want to inform you about some diocesan events that have been canceled or will be rescheduled due to the Coronavirus:
- The Mass of Anointing and Healing scheduled for Saturday, March 21st will be rescheduled. The new time, date and place will be announced shortly.
- The Annual White Mass and Brunch scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd has been canceled and will not be rescheduled for this year.
- The Mass of Hope, Healing, and Reconciliation for Survivors of Sexual Abuse scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd will be rescheduled. The new time, date and place will be announced shortly.
Beginning immediately, I am mandating that the following policies be implemented for all parishes and Catholic institutions in the Diocese until further notice from the Office of the Bishop (I am including the directives from last week here for clarity):
- Offering of the Precious Blood of Christ is to be suspended at all Masses. Priest concelebrants should receive the Precious Blood by intinction. Assisting deacons will not receive the Precious Blood. Be sure to have low-gluten hosts available for those who have an allergy and normally receive only the Precious Blood.
- The Sign of Peace is to be exchanged without physical contact. You may invite parishioners to use some other gesture (e.g., a nod of the head, a smile or a spoken greeting) or omit entirely the call to exchange the Sign of Peace.
- For the celebration of Confirmation, the Sign of Peace will be exchanged between the Bishop and the confirmandi without a handshake. Photographs will take place in church immediately after the celebration of Mass and will include only the Bishop, the confirmandi and their sponsors.
- Parishioners are not to hold hands during the Our Father, if that is the practice of the parish.
- Holy Water fonts are to remain emptied and sanitized.
- Make sure that handrails, restrooms and the tops of pews are properly disinfected and that hand sanitizer is available at all church entrances. Also, have hand sanitizers available near the sanctuary so that all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and priest celebrants can purify their hands immediately before and after distributing the Eucharist.
In addition, I am recommending strongly that Pastors consider the following:
- Before the distribution of Holy Communion, suggest that your parishioners consider receiving the Host in their hands and not on the tongue. Also, you may want to encourage those who are feeling ill or those who may have come in contact with someone with flu-like symptoms or have come to know that they had contact with someone in the last 14 days who has subsequently developed flu-like symptoms to refrain entirely from receiving Holy Communion. Instead, as is the practice of the Church, one can make an Act of Spiritual Communion at the time others are receiving. (The Act, which can be offered for all those who have died or are suffering from Coronavirus, can be a simple prayer, such as, “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”)
- Consider postponing or cancelling non-liturgical, social events scheduled to take place in the immediate weeks ahead, especially those at which the elderly may be inclined to participate. As important and life-giving as some of these events can be for a parish or institution, looking out for the well-being of others is of primary concern.
- As people of faith, we want to place this entire crisis into the hands of the Lord. It is fitting, therefore, that the Universal Prayer at Masses include a petition to ask God’s mercy for those who have died from the Coronavirus, His healing for those suffering from it and His protection for all others against it.
- Remind your parishioners that if they are exhibiting flu-like or cold symptoms, they are not obliged to attend Sunday Mass. In fact, until there is more information about the Coronavirus and its spread, one should out of charity avoid public events if experiencing such symptoms. Also, the elderly and those with underlying physical conditions that would make them more susceptible to the Coronavirus are not obliged to attend Sunday Mass.
Thank you for your cooperation in implementing these measures.