Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has understandably raised concerns among the faithful. Health officials confirmed the first two cases of this respiratory illness in Minnesota this past week, and the state Department of Health continues to monitor the situation. I encourage you to visit the 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.
The coronavirus spreads in a similar manner as influenza. Taking some common-sense precautions can help to minimize the spread of these respiratory illnesses:
- 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.
At this time, I am not requiring parishes to modify any liturgical practices; if there is a change regarding this, I will notify pastors.
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. 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. Use the time to watch the TV Mass at home, pray, and reflect on the Scriptures of the day.
Pastors, at their discretion, may implement specific guidelines they deem in the best interests of their parishes. I ask you to follow whatever provisions your pastor puts into effect for your parish.
Please join me in praying for all those affected by the coronavirus and other illnesses, and for the public officials who are working to keep us all safe.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud