As concerns continue about the spread of the coronavirus, Bishop Donald Kettler is recommending that parishes and individuals take precautions to minimize the spread of the virus. But, at this time, he isn’t requiring parishes to modify any liturgical practices.
“If there is a change regarding this, I will notify pastors,” he wrote in a March 9 letter to the people of the diocese.
Health officials confirmed the first two cases of the coronavirus in Minnesota this past week, and the state Department of Health continues to monitor the situation. As of March 8, more than 105,000 cases of the respiratory illness, also known as COVID-19, have been confirmed worldwide. In the United States, there have been more than 500 cases in 32 states.
“The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has understandably raised concerns among the faithful,” Bishop Kettler wrote. “I encourage you to visit the [Minnesota] health department’s coronavirus webpage (https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html) as well as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) for the latest updates. My staff and I are monitoring these pages for the latest information.”
He said people should follow preventive measures recommended by state and health officials to slow the spread of the coronavirus and similar illnesses, such as the flu. These include:
- washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water;
- using hand sanitizer;
- covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue;
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and;
- staying home if you are ill.
“Because the coronavirus appears to cause more serious sickness in older persons and those with underlying health conditions, I ask visitors to our nursing homes to be especially vigilant in taking precautions and staying away from these facilities if they have symptoms of respiratory illness,” Bishop Kettler said.
He said worshippers who want to take additional precautions may choose to exchange the sign of peace verbally or with another gesture in lieu of a handshake, take Communion in the hand instead of on the tongue, and not receive the Precious Blood from the common cup.
“Pastors, at their discretion, may implement specific guidelines they deem in the best interests of their parishes,” Bishop Kettler said. “I ask you to follow whatever provisions your pastor puts into effect for your parish.”
“If you are feeling ill, please don’t attend Mass and put others at risk. It is not a sin to miss Mass when you are sick,” he added.
He ended the letter by asking people to pray “for all those affected by the coronavirus and other illnesses, and for the public officials who are working to keep us all safe.”
(Photo credit: CNS photo/Philip Toscano, PA Wire via Reuters)