Priests at Roman Catholic churches have been asked to avoid blessing people on the forehead and visitors have been advised not to kiss or touch statues as precaution against the coronavirus.
Archbishop Thomas D’ Souza sent a circular to all churches and institutions in the archdiocese of Calcutta on Tuesday to “contain the spread of coronavirus which is making headlines every day”.
“These are simple measures that can be adopted to prevent the spread of the virus and we will pray to God to protect us all. Those who have any symptoms should avoid public spaces,” Archbishop Thomas D’ Souza told Metro.
The circular has separate directives for priests and all others. “Refrain from kissing/touching statues…. Avoid seeking blessing from priests on the forehead, even in sickness or physical ailment,” says the section meant for visitors.
People have been asked to receive the “Holy Communion in hand during this period”, instead of the tongue.
Those who come to pray should avoid handshakes and embrace, the circular says. “Instead, you may greet with folded hands (“namaste” style), especially during exchange of peace during mass.”
The archbishop’s letter also talks about Good Friday, which falls on April 10. “On Good Friday (10th April 2020), the Solemn Veneration of the Cross will be done without kissing or touching the Cross,” it says.
But the circular clarifies that the guidelines may be revised from time to time.
“Let us readily and willingly follow these measures expressing our solidarity with all the efforts being made all over the world to contain the spread of this virus which is the concern of all,” the archbishop’s letter says.
The priests and Eucharistic ministers have been asked to carry their personal sanitisers and sanitise their hands before the distribution of the Holy Communion.
“Avoid blessing people on the forehead…. Please refrain from any physical contact while praying over the sick. Use sanitisers before and after Anointing (at Baptism and Sacrament of the Sick),” is the advice to priests.
“The people should understand that these changes have to be followed to promote and enhance the general health. The reverence is not being compromised but some technical adjustments have to be made for the safety of people and to avoid any kind of contagion,” said Father Rodney Borneo, priest at St Ignatius Church.
The laity commission of the archdiocese of Calcutta held a prayer service at Auxilium Parish Church, Gobra, on Tuesday for refuge, protection and healing from the novel coronavirus.
The prayer was led by Father Ramesh Cherian, priest at Auxilium Parish Church, and Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the archdiocese of Calcutta, was the main celebrant of the Holy Mass.
The Holy mass is the culmination of the prayer service.
“Worry accomplishes nothing except weakness of heart and head. It’s been said that 90 per cent of the things we worry or become panicked about never happen, and the other 10 per cent are outside our control,” Father Gomes said.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India was 47 till Tuesday noon, according to the ministry of health and family welfare. Of these, 31 are Indians and the rest foreigners.