BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has directed Brisbane parishes to adopt changed liturgical practices for the peace of mind of local Catholics in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19), effective from March 5.
In a statement, he said Brisbane archdiocesan directors and Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell had been meeting daily to monitor the advice of Queensland Health.
Queensland Health had issued no specific directives for public events like worship.
The directions set forth by Archbishop Coleridge were proactive measures.
Archbishop Coleridge issued a number of protocols deemed “proportionate to the current understanding of the coronavirus and the risks outlined by health authorities”.
The following changes were outlined in a letter for Brisbane priests:
• Parishes should refrain from distributing Holy Communion from the chalice until further notice, with a reminder to the faithful that Christ is fully present under either species.
• All ministers of Holy Communion should wash their hands before and after distributing, and provision should be made for this.
• When exchanging the Sign of Peace, people should avoid shaking hands but say “Peace be with you” with some eye contact and perhaps an appropriate gesture.
• Holy water should be temporarily removed from fonts at the doors of churches, though still be available for people to take home.
• Parishes and other settings where liturgies are celebrated should make alcohol-based gels or rubs (or like products) available near the entrances.
He said it would be “preferable and perhaps prudent” for people to receive Holy Communion on the hand rather than on the tongue, but the decision remained with the communicant.
“The archdiocese will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide further advice as required,” Archbishop Coleridge said in the statement.
“In the meantime we pray fervently that the threat of COVID-19 will ease, that those suffering from the virus will be cured and that those working for its relief will be strengthened.”
These liturgical changes were in line with national advice offered by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference issued on March 2, which released a list of recommended changes similar to Archbishop Coleridge’s advice.
Other dioceses in the Queensland province have followed the national advice too, with Townsville, Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Cairns dioceses each issuing similar advice for their priests.
To date, 59 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Australia.
Of these cases, 22 people had recovered and two people had died from the disease.
Most cases were involved with travel – 15 were initially reported to be associated with Wuhan, China; 10 were associated with the Diamond Princess cruise ship; 12 cases were reported to have direct or indirect travel history to Iran; six cases were reported to have had travel history to Singapore, Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and South Korea.
The most recent death was an elderly woman who contracted the virus from an infected health worker in Sydney’s north.
Health authorities in New South Wales were advising that visits by groups of children to aged care facilities in the state be stopped until otherwise advised.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has admitted that containment was “an unlikely outcome”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison extended the travel ban to South Korea yesterday.
This travel ban was in addition to the travel ban on Iran and China.
It has also been reported that 15 staff at the Brisbane Mater Hospital have been told to self-isolate for 14 days after coming in contact with a patient later discovered be infected with coronavirus.