LITURGICAL GUIDELINES concerning the Corona Virus
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has issued a set of directives for the celebration of Mass designed to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The directives, which have been approved by Archbishop Nelson Perez and provided to archdiocesan clergy, take immediate effect until further notice as follows:
Holy Communion: All priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion are to wash their hands with soap and water prior to the celebration of Mass. A hand sanitizer may be used in the pew by the extraordinary minister prior to the distribution of holy Communion.
In addition to the usual purification of fingers with water after the distribution of holy Communion, all Communion ministers should again wash their hands.
The Centers for Disease Control have stated that hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus.
The distribution of the Precious Blood to liturgical ministers and the faithful has been suspended. In its announcement, the archdiocese observed that according to Catholic teaching, the whole Christ — in both his Body and Blood — is present when only the host is received.
But parishes should make provisions for reception of the Precious Blood for persons with celiac disease who cannot digest the gluten in wheat hosts, according to the archdiocese.
Sign of peace: Noting that the invitation to the sign of peace is an optional yet regular part of liturgical practice, the archdiocese advises pastors to “consult the local community for how best to observe” the gesture during the current coronavirus outbreak, adding that “perhaps a head bow could replace the customary handshake.” (More information concerning the Sign of Peace from the Vatican Congregation on Divine Worship follows these notes)
The archdiocese has also advised that holy water fonts “are to be drained and refreshed more frequently than usual to avoid any possible contamination.”
Prayers for the prevention of the virus and those affected should be included in the universal prayer during Mass, said the archdiocese, with the faithful encouraged “to be thoughtful and vigilant” in practices that “prevent the spread of sickness and protect the good health of one another.”
Archdiocesan spokesman Kenneth Gavin said the archdiocese “will continue to monitor coronavirus developments closely” and “will also take further action as necessary based on the guidance of national and local health agencies.”
Excerpts from the Letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments regarding the Sign of Peace.
From the offices of the Congregation, Rome, 8 June, 2014.
In the Roman liturgical tradition, the exchange of peace is placed before Holy Communion with its own specific theological significance. Its point of reference is found in the Eucharistic contemplation of the Paschal mystery as the “Paschal kiss” of the Risen Christ present on the altar, and not, as some suggest, an action inspired by the Gospel passage from St. Matthew 5: 23
The rites which prepare for Communion constitute a well expressed unity in which each ritual element has its own significance and which contributes to the overall ritual sequence of sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery being celebrated.
Consideration of this theme is important. Along with previous reflections that form the basis for a suitable catechesis by providing some guidelines, some practical suggestions are offered to the Conferences of Bishops for their prudent consideration:
a) It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist. It is entirely correct to say that this does not necessarily involve inviting the faithful to exchange the sign of peace “mechanically”. If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted, and sometimes ought to be omitted. Recall that the rubric in the Missal states: “Then, if appropriate, the Deacon or the Priest, adds: “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”
On the basis of these observations, it may be advisable that Conferences of Bishops should consider whether it might not be fitting to change the manner of giving peace. For example, in those places where familiar and profane gestures of greeting have been used (e.g. a handshake or less appropriate, a wave) , they could be replaced with other more appropriate gestures.
In any case, it will be necessary to avoid abuses such as:
-the introduction of a “song for peace”, which is non-existent in the Roman Rite.
-the movement of the faithful from their places to exchange the sign of peace amongst themselves.
-the departure of the priest from the altar in order to give the sign of peace to some of the faithful.
-that in certain circumstances, such as at the Solemnity of Easter or of Christmas, or during ritual celebrations such as Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Sacred Ordinations, Religious Professions, and Funerals, the exchange of peace being the occasion for expressing congratulations, best wishes or condolences among those present.
Conferences of Bishops are likewise invited to prepare liturgical catecheses on the meaning of the rite of peace in the Roman liturgy and its proper realization in the celebration of the Holy Mass.
The Holy Father Pope Francis, on 7 June, 2014 approved and confirmed the contents of which is contained in this Circular Letter, prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and ordered its publication.
Antonio Card. CANIZARES LLOVERA Prefect