By Katherine Long | Editor

As concerns over the global spread of the coronavirus continue to mount, the Diocese of Syracuse is developing local response plans and urging individuals to take preventative action.

Diocesan leaders are “in the midst of planning an operational response depending on the situation,” Chancellor and Director of Communications Danielle Cummings said in a communication distributed to pastors, parishes, and diocesan employees Wednesday evening.

The diocese’s responses “will be triggered by 1) a county’s state of emergency [or] 2) a confirmed case of the virus,” Cummings said.

Cummings also stressed the importance of taking preventative measures. Liturgical guidance distributed by the diocese March 3 outlines commonsense measures for consideration:

• Mass attendance is not obligatory for those who are ill (Code of Canon Law 1983, c. 898; Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2181). Those who are ill not only can but should remain at home and participate — as they are able — by watching a broadcast of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on TV or YouTube and by making a spiritual communion.

• Those at Mass concerned they may be getting ill are encouraged to: (1) refrain from extending hands at the Sign of Peace (some other appropriate gesture may be extended instead – e.g., a smile or nod of the head), (2) receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue, and (3) refrain from receiving the Precious Blood from the chalice.

• Those who distribute Holy Communion (i.e., priest, deacon, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) are to practice good hygiene, particularly by washing their hands before and after the distribution of Holy Communion. They should also take care not to touch the hand or tongue of any communicant.

• The pastor of a parish may decide to suspend the distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice. It is important to remember that the whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under each of the species of bread and wine (CCC, 1390). Pastors may also decide to suspend the Sign of Peace and/or the use of holy water fonts.

• Holy water fonts should be cleaned, and the water changed on a regular basis.

A novena regarding the coronavirus is also being developed and will be distributed March 12, Cummings said. Bishop Douglas J. Lucia has requested all parishes begin the nine days of prayer this weekend.

The Diocese of Syracuse is home to more than 227,000 Catholics across Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego Counties. According to diocesan figures, the diocese encompasses 114 parishes, 11 missions, and seven oratories; six Catholic Charities agencies; 22 diocesan Catholic schools; and 264 offices (including schools) employing approximately 3,000 people.

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