Archdiocese of Newark Issues Guidance to Priests, Religious, and Parishioners regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
March 2, 2020
The Archdiocese of Newark continues to monitor the questions that are arising about the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states that the Diocesan Bishop “must promote, regulate, and be vigilant over the liturgical life of his diocese.” In light of the coronavirus, the uncertainty of how widespread and impactful it is and/or could be and as a precaution, Cardinal Tobin has directed the following:
- Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are urged to practice good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass begins and/or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer solution before and after distributing Holy Communion—as is practiced in so many of our parishes and institutions already.
- The Archdiocese has always advised the faithful that sickness is a valid reason not to attend Mass or other Church gatherings. As such, any individual who is sick or has flu-like symptoms is urged to stay home. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is broadcast on several television channels and the sick can make a “spiritual communion” until they return to good health.
- The sign of peace should be exchanged without physical contact.
- Distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ from the chalice to parishioners is to be suspended. Furthermore, no member of the faithful is obliged to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue.
The general message from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is that all should be prepared, but not panicked. The Archdiocese will continue to monitor advisories from Catholic and other organizations regarding precautions on the coronavirus and share any appropriate information with the faithful and the parishes.
On February 18, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Catholic Relief Services, and the Catholic Health Association of the United States issued a joint statement in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus:
As communities and public health officials respond to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China and closely monitor its presence and progression in other parts of the world, we join in solidarity and prayer for those impacted or working to treat those infected by the disease. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, and the Catholic Health Association of the United States hope that governments will work together in partnership to improve all nations’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to this virus.
The Catholic Church in the United States stands in solidarity with those affected by the coronavirus and their families, health workers who are valiantly trying to diagnose and treat patients, and those under quarantine awaiting results of their screening for the virus. We offer our prayers for healing and support those organizations, both domestic and international, working to provide medical supplies and assistance to address this serious risk to public health.
In early February, the Holy See sent 700,000 respiratory masks to China to help prevent the spread of the disease. Within the United States, Catholic healthcare providers are at the front line of providing treatment and care to those impacted by the virus.
We also commend the U.S. government for transporting more than 17 tons of donated medical supplies to China. This response to the novel coronavirus demonstrates the critical importance of the need to work together and to invest in crucial health care systems here and in other countries, thus preventing and responding to community-wide emergencies. We urge the U.S. Congress to support these efforts by protecting access to domestic health care safety net programs and by providing additional emergency international assistance to areas impacted by the virus.
We also urge individuals to stay informed as information becomes available by going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/COVID19.
Below are three fact sheets courtesy of the CDC. For additional information about the coronavirus, including Frequently Asked Questions and travel guidelines, please visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/COVID19 or the NIH website at https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus.