Effective immediately and until further notice, “full precautionary” measures are to be followed at all Catholic Masses and Services because of the rapid spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
In a statement issued last Wednesday (March 4), the Archdiocese of Port of Spain advised:
1. Holy Communion will be distributed only in the hand (not on the tongue)
2. No distribution of the Precious Blood
3. At the exchange of the Sign of Peace, no handshakes are to be given (make a small bow instead) and no holding of hands during the Our Father
4. No holy water will be provided for use in public spaces
5. Ministers who distribute communion must sanitise hands before and after distribution
6. Sanitise or wash hands with soap before and after church and after leaving church restroom
7. Cough or sneeze into a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw tissue into a closed bin
8. Seek medical assistance and stay isolated if you exhibit any flu-like symptoms
The local Church joins in solidarity with and continues to pray fervently for those impacted by or working to treat COVID-19. Persons are now urged to keep abreast of any updates on the Archdiocese’s position on this matter via facebook.com/catholictt and the Catholic News.
Regionally, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica said people’s exposure to media reports, the migratory character of the population, and the region’s dependency on foreign tourism, are “sufficient” for the Church to be concerned and respond pastorally.
In a memorandum on COVID-19 dated March 3, the President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) acknowledged as a regional body, the bishops have been engaged in an informal discussion on the matter.
“I certainly feel your concerns, fears and anxieties, and the expressed need for a collective response. I am also aware that many of you have communicated with your people providing liturgical guidelines and reiterating health pre-cautions,” the Bishop said.
Bishop Malzaire thanked all for their pastoral response to this crisis which, he said, surely affects the dignity of the human person.
He encouraged all to continue updating themselves with information on the Coronavirus from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) as it related to the Caribbean. He further urged all to institute the necessary liturgical practices in their dioceses in a timely manner that would prevent the spread of the virus.
The statement closed with Bishop Malzaire assuring of his own personal and moral support to the people of the AEC during yet “an added challenging situation”. He prayed that God gives the faithful wisdom to understand and courage to manage the impact of the virus