The instructions to given to clergy and religious, and to be read out at Masses this weekend, include
- Everyone being more attentive than usual to the normal hygienic routine of washing hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water.
- Holy Water Stoups will remain empty for the time being.
- Holy Communion will be given under one kind only and the Host will be placed on the hand. During these next few months Holy Communion should not be received on the tongue since there is a greater danger of passing on the infection.
- Both the Priest and any Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion who is assisting him will wash their hands both before and after the distribution of Holy Communion.
Mgr Gerard writes: “I want to thank you for your co-operation and once again to emphasise that these are precautionary measures only and will be removed as soon as the Chief Medical Officer of the Government gives the all clear.
“Please keep in your prayers all who have been infected across the world by this virus and those who are struggling greatly. Pray for those who have died and for their grieving families. And pray too for all doctors and nursing staff who are involved in supporting and seeking to heal those who are infected. Pray too that all of us may assist and support one another during this challenging time.
Message from Mgr Gerard to the parishes of St Mary’s Cathedral, St Clare and St Francis
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have now given guidelines which I reproduce below and these need to be implemented with immediate effect. We are currently at Stage 2. Some of the things I have already put into action, others we are now having to implement.
- I have already put into action the suspension of Holy Communion from the Chalice and requested that the Host be given on the hand only.
- I have suspended the physical sign of peace.
- Removed Holy Water stoops.
- Asked everyone attending Mass to sanitise their hands as they come into church and to ensure they have either hand sanitiser gel or to wash their hands.
- We need to ensure everyone maintains good hygiene especially at Mass and public gatherings.
- To politely ask anyone with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from attending Mass, and public events of any kind.
- To advise those most vulnerable (elderly people with weakened immune systems and long term conditions like cancer, lung disease and diabetes) to refrain from parish gatherings and to stay at home, but contact the priest to let him know you ae doing this.
- We have been asked not to pass the collection plate around and therefore at the end of our Masses on the weekends there will be an usher at the exits of our churches with baskets for the collection to be given then.
- On Good Friday, we will not be touching or kissing the wood of the Cross, the congregation will remain seated or kneeling in reverence.
- I am asking all Ministers of the Eucharist to sanitise their hands before and after distributing Holy Communion. (We should be doing this anyway as a matter of course), and this can be done by washing hands discreetly before proceeding to the sanctuary or using good quality hand gel discreetly.
- When visiting parishioners at home all priests and ministers must wash their hands before giving the Sacraments. There can be no pastoral visits to people who may have to self isolate until the isolation ends.
- Any visit to people in Care Homes or hospitals should always follow the advice of staff on infection control.
- We must cease to use shared hymn books and missals which could help transmit the virus and therefore there will be no hymn books available as from next weekend. We will need to print hymns on sheets.
- I have been asked to suspend catering, teas, coffees, etc, at large parish gatherings where multiple touching of mugs, utilities, biscuits etc occurs. This is particularly prevalent in soup kitchens and social events that might happen at St Francis Social Club.
These guidelines have been given as a result of this fast evolving situation. We need to be aware that there are further stages that other countries have had to go down which take us to a different level. I am sure most of these things are common sense, but as parish priest I have to ensure that we abide by the advice given and I am not the kind of priest that leaves it to the people to decide.
Finally, I am sure our prayers and thoughts are with those who sadly have died as a result of this virus, our prayers with those in authority who are making difficult decisions, and those who are having to self isolate, and also we pray for all our health staff who are coping with all of our health issues, so we pray:
O God, our refuge and our shield even when we walk in the shadow of death you are there at our side. Be with your people in this time of danger: bring strength to the afflicted and protection to those untouched by disease. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In compliance with the new regulations the government introduced yesterday, the Church will be closed every day at all times.
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