Diocese of Charleston issues guidelines for Mass in wake of coronavirus

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone speaks to the faithful during Mass. (File photo)

Editor’s note: On March 17, in consideration of new directives from the Centers for Disease Control, the Diocese of Charleston issued another directive cancelling Masses. See that story at https://miscellany.wpengine.com/2020/03/16/diocese-cancels-masses-temporarily-due-to-coronavirus/

The Diocese of Charleston released a memo on March 12 addressing questions and concerns regarding the novel coronavirus in regard to the celebration of Mass:

“With the CDC deeming COVID-19 (coronavirus) a pandemic, we know there are many questions people may have about what steps the diocese is taking to reduce the spread of the virus.

As of now, state officials have NOT recommended or mandated that public events be canceled, but the CDC has encouraged the more vulnerable populations to avoid large crowds. Based on that recommendation, all Masses this weekend should go on as planned.

However, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone is granting dispensation for Masses this weekend to those who are at high risk for adverse health complications from COVID-19, or do not feel comfortable attending Mass. The Catholic Catechism (2181) allows people to miss Mass as a result of illness.

Regarding Mass, Bishop Guglielmone asks that the following temporary precautions be taken. It should be noted that these changes are only temporary and are being done out of prudence and charity with the greater good of the faithful in mind.

  • Holy Water should be removed from hand-fonts. If available, hand sanitizers will be available at all entrances.
  • Missalettes, hymnals, etc. will be removed from the pews. One-time-use worship aids may be provided.
  • The exchange of the Sign of Peace will be suspended or done instead with a simple bow. Also, there should be no handholding during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • The distribution of the Precious Blood will be suspended during Holy Communion.
  • Saliva can be a very potent form of transmission of the virus. Given the frequency of direct contact with saliva in the distribution of Holy Communion, we highly recommend that people accept distribution only in the hand.
  • Pastors may keep the gifts of bread and wine covered on the credence table, with no offertory gifts procession.
  • Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should sanitize their hands prior to and after distributing Communion.
  • Priests will be extra vigilant that all vessels used during Mass are properly cleaned after each use.
  • During the collection, the number of hands touching the basket should be limited.
  • People are not obliged to attend Mass if they are sick. Staying home can be an act of charity toward fellow parishioners.

The CDC recommends the following actions to protect yourself and others from transmitting the coronavirus:

  1. Stay home if you are sick.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  4. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  6. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue then throw the tissue away. If tissues are not available, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.

If you wish to stay home from Mass, but wish to participate virtually, there are several ways to watch Mass online or on television. Here are a few of those ways: