By Katherine Long | Editor
Bishop Douglas J. Lucia is requiring all parishes in the Diocese of Syracuse to immediately suspend distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice and to empty all holy water fonts in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“While there are currently no confirmed cases in any of the seven counties of our diocese, we are still taking every necessary precaution,” the diocese said in its statement, noting it has been “in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is actively following the directive of the county public health departments to ensure that all diocesan parishes, schools, ministries, and charities are responding appropriately to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
The updated liturgical protocols were issued March 12, a day that also saw Syracuse’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Mass postponed. Guidance for consideration by parishes and faithful was previously offered by the diocese March 3. [See the updated protocols in full below.]
In addition to suspending use of the cup and holy water fonts, the protocols require parishes to omit the Sign of Peace or exchange it without physical contact, to allow only the priest to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue, and to refrain from holding hands during the recitation of the Our Father.
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus, or who has been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive, is asked to inform the Office of the Chancellor of such exposure. “In response to this information the diocese will work to implement a mitigation plan that could include the closure and cleaning of some or all facilities,” the statement said.
The diocese is currently developing operational response plans for parishes, schools, and other diocesan entities. The diocese’s responses will be triggered by a county’s State of Emergency or a confirmed case of the virus in a diocesan facility, diocesan Chancellor and Director of Communications Danielle Cummings said.
The diocese’s Revised Liturgical Response to Coronavirus follows:
The Diocese of Syracuse has been in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is actively following the directive of the county public health departments to ensure that all diocesan parishes, schools, ministries, and charities are responding appropriately to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
While there are currently no confirmed cases in any of the seven counties of our diocese, we are still taking every necessary precaution. If confirmed cases begin to arise, the diocese has additional plans that it will put into effect. At this time, the following are to be observed:
Bishop Lucia mandates all parishes and high school and campus ministries to make the following adjustments to liturgical practices:
• Clean surfaces and other facilities as frequently as possible
• Avoid coming to church (e.g., Mass, confirmation, Lenten missions, etc.) with common symptoms of illness (e.g., fever, cough, body aches) or if vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus (e.g., those with chronic illness, and those with immune system deficiencies). (There is no obligation to attend Mass when ill — Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181. A dispensation has been granted by Bishop Lucia to those who are vulnerable — Code of Canon Law 1983, c. 1245)
• Empty holy water fonts and keep them completely dry. (Holy water may be obtained by the faithful from a large dispenser with a tap or spout using individual bottles)
• Refrain from the non-liturgical practice of holding hands during the recitation of the Our Father
• Omit the Sign of Peace or exchange it without physical contact
• Suspend distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ from the chalice to the faithful
• Practice good hygiene, particularly when distributing Holy Communion
• Refrain from the non-liturgical practice of priests and deacons placing hands on the heads of children or adults when blessing those who are not receiving Communion
• Limit to the priest alone the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue at the end of the communion line for those who still wish to receive in this manner
• Clean all liturgical vessels with soap and water after each Mass, including any pyx that is taken to a nursing home, hospital, the homebound, etc.
• Greet priests or deacons after Mass without physical contact
Bishop Lucia strongly recommends that all parishes and high school and campus ministries take the following liturgical precautionary measures:
• Ensure that maintenance staff or volunteers wipe down pew railings, hymn books, door handles, restroom surfaces, etc. after each Mass
• Use hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes as part of good hygiene practices
• Set up a secure, stationary collection basket where parishioners can place their offertory gifts before Mass
• Provide collection counters with sterile gloves when counting the offertory collection
• Receive Holy Communion reverently on the hand or approach the priest alone to receive Holy Communion on the tongue at the end of the communion line
• Take all necessary precautions when visiting the sick or homebound
• Refrain from visiting those who are quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), unless by a priest for the purpose of celebrating the sacraments in danger of death
Bishop Lucia asks those who receive a positive test result for the coronavirus (COVID-19) or have been in direct contact with an individual with a confirmed case to contact the office of the chancellor to inform the diocese of this exposure. In response to this information the diocese will work to implement a mitigation plan that could include the closure and cleaning of some or all facilities.
Novena Prayer for an end to the Coronavirus Pandemic
O Mary, full of grace, Patroness of this nation and Mother of the Church, in this time of illness and worldwide need we seek your intercession for the human family before your Son’s throne of grace and mercy. We ask for strength in adversity, health in weakness, and comfort in sorrow. Help us, O Blessed Mother, to be filled with confidence and trust in the tender compassion of our God. Let us not be afraid, like our own Saint Marianne Cope, who entrusted her life and ministry among the outcasts of society into the care of our Divine Physician. Continue to watch over all who are sick as well as those who care for them and give wisdom to all who are seeking a cure. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen
Sample Petitions from the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship
• For those who are suffering in the current outbreak of sickness that they might be healed, and for the happy repose of all who have died from this sickness in recent weeks; let us pray to the Lord.
• For scientists, health professionals, public officials, and all who are serving the common good in this difficult and uncertain time, that they will be filled with wisdom and understanding; let us pray to the Lord.
• That in times of illness our merciful and loving Father will strengthen our faith and trust in his goodness and divine providence; let us pray to the Lord.
• That our compassionate Father would touch all affected by the current outbreak with healing and peace; let us pray to the Lord.