After receiving advice from the Ministry of Health, the NZ Catholic bishops have issued new guidelines to dioceses and parishes asking them to stop distributing communion from the chalice, among others.
The bishops, under the advice of National Liturgy Acting Director Fr John O’ Connor, released an urgent COVID-19 coronavirus update on March 15.
“The National Liturgy Office and NZ Catholic Bishops have received important new advice today from the Ministry of Health,” Fr O’Connor said in behalf of the bishops.
“This advice specifically says we should desist with ‘the sharing of communion cups and shared holy water, and hand shaking’.”
Based on the Health Ministry’s advice, Catholics are being asked to:
- At the Sign of Peace, people should avoid shaking hands or other contact with one another, and instead smile, nod or bow to one another.
- Holy Communion is not to be distributed from the chalice.
- Communion is only to be distributed in the hand, not on the tongue.
- Holy water is to be removed from stoups and containers at the church door.
- Priests should not touch children’s heads when blessing them and then continue to distribute Communion.
He clarified that there is still no restriction on public gatherings, including Mass.
“We are concerned there is a significant degree of fear among some parishioners, and it is essential that the Church is a safe place for people when they gather for Mass. We therefore ask each diocese, parish and Catholic community to respond with appropriate sensitivity to the fears that exists,” Fr O’ Connor said.
The bishops emphasised with all parishioners the importance of good practices of hygiene, including regular washing of hands, covering coughs and sneezes with elbows not hands, staying at home if sick, and trying to keep a metre away from people who are unwell.