Coronavirus: Priests advised not to touch babies at baptism; confirmations may be postponed
Priests advised to use cotton bud or glove to anoint people who are dying
Priests will not touch a baby on the forehead when they are being baptised under new guidelines issued by the Irish Catholic bishops to combat the spread of coronavirus. File photograph: iStock
Priests will no longer anoint the foreheads of people who are dying with their thumb. Instead, holy oil will be administered with a cotton bud or glove which will then be disposed of appropriately.
Similarly, priests will not touch a baby on the forehead when they are being baptised.
These, along with a ban on the sign of peace and on the passing around of collection baskets in church are among the measures announced by the Irish Catholic bishops on Wednesday to combat the spread of coronavirus or Covid-19.
The bishops have warned that many confirmation ceremonies may have to be postponed because of the spread of the virus pending future advice from the public health authorities.
“The celebration of the sacrament of confirmation will continue for now but may have to be postponed at very short notice in the light of future advice from the public health authorities”.
They also asked that people with underlying health conditions and who are considered vulnerable from a health perspective, should not attend confirmation ceremonies.
Communion will only be received into the hand and not on the tongue. Holy water fonts will remain empty at this time.
Mass-goers have been asked to keep a safe distance from one another. Elderly people with underlying medical conditions have been advised to stay away from funerals. Sympathisers have been told not to shake hands with the bereaved.
Hand sanitisers will be at the entrances to all churches and priests will sanitise their hands before and after distributing communion.
Priests are being asked to provide an alternative to the practice of passing collection baskets through the congregation. “The faithful are asked to continue their generous contributions to the upkeep of their parish,” the bishops added.
Masses will continue as normal. However, those with underlying conditions are “dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend”.
Instead, they have encouraged people to avail of parish radio broadcasts and webcams.
The bishops said Christians were called to think of the common good and take responsibility for each other.
They added: “As people of faith we are called to face the fears of this moment with a courage not our own and with a generous heart. God is with his people in good times and bad.
“Like believers in every age we say: ‘If I should walk in The Valley of Darkness no evil would I fear for You are there’.
“At this time our first concern has to be for the elderly, the ill and those with underlying medical conditions.
“While acknowledging that the following directives will involve sacrifice for all, we encourage a positive engagement in order that the most vulnerable amongst us can be protected and so that the coronavirus can be contained.”