Given the growing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus, and the increasing likelihood of it affecting us widely in Scotland, it seems the right moment to take further precautionary measures in our parishes.
I have been in touch with other bishops and spoken with several priests about the matter. Health and Safety professionals have also raised the issue. I would ask that the following procedures be introduced in every parish with immediate effect. Naturally, this needs to be done with the requisite tact, and with suitable explanations when appropriate.
These measures are all temporary and will, of course, remain in force only as long as is necessary by common consensus.
- Holy Water Stoups at the entrance to churches should be emptied. People may still continue to bless themselves as they enter their church or place of worship where Holy Mass will be celebrated, but without having recourse to blessed water.
- The Sign of Peace is suspended entirely, for the time being.
- Holy Communion will be distributed under one kind: the Lay Faithful will receive the Consecrated Host only.
- Holy Communion will be received in the hand, and not on the tongue.
- All Ministers of the Eucharist, whether they be Ordinary or Extraordinary, must wash and sanitise their hands before distributing Holy Communion.
- Only the Priest Celebrant or the Assisting Deacon will purify the Sacred Vessels used at Mass (i.e., Chalice, Paten, and Ciborium).
- Parish Sacristans, and anyone responsible for setting up for the celebration of Holy Mass, should wash their hands thoroughly before touching the Sacred Vessels and the altar breads to be consecrated during the Mass.
- Sanitising hand gel should be available for use in our churches and Mass centres, and near the altar, for Celebrants, Deacons, and Extraordinary Ministers.
All of these steps are being introduced as helpful precautionary measures; they are not meant to worry or to panic people, but simply to alert them to the fact that certain hygiene protocols be followed in order to combat the potential threat of infection.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Please continue to pray for those who are already suffering because of this virus, and also for ourselves, that we be protected from all harm. This is an entirely appropriate prayer of intercession during our Lenten season.
Yours devotedly in Christ,