MIAMI – Amid an effort to prevent the coronavirus spread in Miami, Catholics will no longer find holy water at the entrance of some churches.
Temporarily emptying the holy water fonts at the church doors is one of the precautions the Archdiocese of Miami suggested on Monday.
The Archdiocese of Miami also suggested priests ask parishioners to avoid going to church if they feel unwell, avoid sharing the chalice and avoid shaking or holding hands during the sign of peace or prayer.
Roman Catholic authorities around the globe have released similar guidelines that will likely be in effect during the 40-day season leading up to Easter, the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
The Holy Communion ceremony, which parishioners can choose to not participate in, can be risky.
It involves the consecration and distribution of a Communion wafer, or the host, which represents the body of Christ, and the wine, which represents Christ’s blood.
The risk: Priests usually place the wafers on parishioners’ tongues, and distribute the wine in a chalice that is shared by all of the parishioners during Holy Mass.
In Israel, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem recently prohibited priests from placing the wafers on parishioners’ tongues to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. They are only allowed to distribute them by hand.
That is not the case in Miami where the distribution of Holy Communion will continue as accustomed.
When the churches are too big, a priest enlists the help of ministers of the Holy Communion. Miami is allowing those who are afraid of the risk of contagion to temporarily step down.
In Italy, where 52 people have died of the virus, many Catholic churches have closed. In France, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, priests closed the pools where pilgrims who are sick go to in search of a cure to their ailments.