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Liturgical & Pastoral Suggestions in the Event of a Viral Outbreak

With over 500,000 Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin, we are concerned with the physical and spiritual health of each and every one – as well as the community in general. Many of our 193 parishes and 107 schools have asked how to handle certain liturgical and pastoral practices during this virus alert. Here are some suggestions and recommendations.

Concerns about the covid-19 virus “coronavirus” have raised questions regarding our participation in the liturgy. The following suggestions are meant to be helpful considerations for parish leadership.

A)  All ministers of communion, ordinary and extraordinary, are to be reminded of the importance of proper hand-washing before and after distributing communion, and of proper technique to be used in distributing communion. This may be done in formation sessions or by written memo.

1. The person responsible for preparing the gifts before Mass is to be reminded to wash his or her hands carefully prior to touching the hosts and pouring the wine. If that person is ill, a substitute should be found.

2. Parishes may have bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available for communion ministers. For example, these may be placed in the front pews (or other discreet but convenient place) for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to use on their way to the sanctuary and after ministering communion.

3. Ordinary Ministers are reminded to wash their hands properly before the beginning of Mass. In addition, a bottle of hand sanitizer may be placed at the credence table (or other discreet, but convenient place) for the Ordinary Ministers to wash their hands after the Sign of Peace.

4. Ministers are to use proper technique in distributing communion. For example:

  • Care must be taken not to touch the mouth, tongue or teeth of a communicant choosing to receive communion on the tongue. If there is any significant accidental contact, ministers should change the hand with which they are distributing communion. If there is gross contamination, the minister is to wash his/her hands.
  • It is the decision of the pastor whether or not Communion will be distributed under one or both species (Body and Blood of Christ). The choice to receive from the Precious Blood or to refrain from the Precious Blood is a personal choice. The Church teaches that Christ is present, whole and entire, in either species (Body or Blood of Christ). (CCC #1377)
  • When administering the Precious Blood, ministers must take care to wipe both the inside and outside lip of the chalice, to turn the chalice before the next person receives, and to move the purificator for each wipe so the same location on the purificator is not used over and over.
  • Ministers are reminded that self-intinction is not allowed.

5. The person responsible for the care of the vessels after Mass is to ensure that they are properly cleaned. After being purified according to the rubrics, Mass vessels should be washed with hot, soapy water.

6. Purificators are also to be laundered according to liturgical norms. After soaking in water (which is then poured into the sacrarium), the purificators are laundered normally. Hot water and laundry detergent may be used.

B)  While there has never been a documented case of an infectious disease being transmitted through the sharing of the Chalice, the parishioners should be regularly reminded that if one is ill, he/she should stay home, or at least refrain from receiving the Precious Blood. Such reminders can be made in the bulletin, by announcement, or in formation sessions—such as RCIA, preparation for First Communion, or adult formation groups. They are also to be reminded that self-intinction is never allowed.

C)  Parishioners should also be reminded that they may choose to refrain from physical contact during Mass if they are ill or experiencing symptoms. An announcement at the beginning of Mass should include a statement that someone’s choosing to refrain from physical contact at the Sign of Peace should not be construed as an indication of rudeness. A nod of the head or a slight bow are acceptable substitutes for physical contact.

Published:2020-03-05
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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee

3501 South Lake Drive
PO Box 070912
Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912

Phone:  (414) 769-3300
Toll-Free: (800) 769-9373
Fax:  (414)  769-3408