Faced with a medical emergency relating to a highly contagious and potentially lethal new virus, Irish bishops have issued new guidelines intended to minimise any interaction that could transmit the coronavirus at liturgical events.
The guidelines are outlined here.
They govern all sacraments – imposing for example the rules that cotton buds be used for the application for the oil of chrism at Confirmation, that the host be received only in the hand at Mass, and that the sign of peace not involve any handshake.
They extend even to Mass collections: ‘priests are asked to provide an alternative to the practice of passing collection baskets through the congregation’. No alternative method is described in the statement, presumably leaving this to be decided at parish level.
With the Irish Government announcement of a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people from 1800 on March 12th to March 29th, we can presumably expect further recommendations for church liturgies in the days ahead. Mass-goers in Northern Ireland will need to attend closely to their own news bulletins also, in case of similar restrictions.
Later – 1645 March 12th: The Irish Association of Priests (ACP) is now reporting that all Masses will be cancelled – and that Archbishop Neary of Tuam has already taken that step