The Archdiocese of St. Louis is encouraging clergy members and congregants to consider changing certain religious practices to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.
Archbishop Robert Carlson sent a letter to church leaders on Monday, urging them to avoid using shared cups to distribute the sacramental wine — and to thoroughly disinfect all sacred vessels before and after Mass. The new precautions are part of an effort to keep worshippers healthy, as more cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, are diagnosed in the U.S.
Maria Lemakis, multimedia manager for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said clergy members are not required to follow these recommendations.
“It's really up to the pastors whether or not they want to suspend temporarily the chalice from being offered at Masses,” Lemakis said. “Parishioners certainly have the option to only receive the Holy Eucharist in the bread.”
The archdiocese has also suggested that parishioners avoid shaking hands during the passing of peace and try to stay at least three feet from their fellow congregants.
“In the Catholic community, we have a natural desire to be close with each other and to relate to each other on that level,” Lemakis said. “There’s a lot of contagious illnesses at this time, so we have to remember some basic guidelines when we’re in community settings.”
Many of these recommendations were also shared informally with parishes at the start of flu season, she said.
According to a statement released Monday, the archdiocese is working with partners in health care to monitor coronavirus developments and may close churches and Catholic schools, if necessary.
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