LIMA — As parishioners in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo observe the second Sunday of Lent, parishes are being asked to temporarily modify communion and liturgical greetings to avoid spreading the new coronavirus or seasonal flu.
The diocese is not alone. As more cases of the coronavirus are confirmed in the U.S., churches and faith groups are looking for alternatives to traditional religious practices likely to spread the virus.
The faithful should expect fewer handshakes and more hand sanitizer until the virus is contained.
“Current public health concerns require a pastoral response, which impacts liturgical celebrations in the Diocese of Toledo,” the diocese stated in a note to parishes last week.
That means less handshaking — often incorporated into the Roman Catholic tradition known as the invitation of the sign of peace, a liturgical greeting shared during Mass — and no more hand holding during the Lord’s Prayer.
Parishes may temporarily stop serving wine with communion, one of the most sacred traditions within Catholicism. Because the Catholic Church observes communion as the literal body and blood of Christ, there are strict guidelines for taking communion. The blood of Christ is offered through a holy chalice, a single cup which all parishioners taking communion will drink from — a concern during the latest outbreak.
But Catholic Church rules allow parishioners to take bread-only communion, an option which the Toledo Diocese is encouraging its churches to follow as the coronavirus outbreak progresses.
The diocese is also encouraging parishes to clean and refresh holy water fonts regularly, too, citing the ongoing concerns from the coronavirus and seasonal flu.
The changes elsewhere have been more subtle. Rather than lead the congregation through a good-morning handshake, Lima Baptist Temple has turned to scripture readings to transition between songs during the church’s Sunday worship service. Other churches are stocking their pews with hand sanitizer to help congregants avoid spreading germs.
But many churches and faith groups are still grappling with how an outbreak of the coronavirus will affect their services, holy traditions and even travel for mission trips, all while waiting to see whether the outbreak reaches closer to home.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.