(SNO) – Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC), which include Saint Lucia has been urged to initiate practices that will prevent the spread of the feared coronavirus.
In a memorandum to regional Bishops, dated March 3, President of the AEC, Bishop of the Diocese of Roseau, Gabriel Malzaire, said there are global concerns over the spread of the virus which has been named COVID-19.
He said there are concerns because of the migratory character of the population and the region’s dependency on foriegn tourism, adding that the church should respond pastorally.
“As a regional body, the AEC has been engaged in an informal discussion on the matter and I certainly feel your concerns, fears and anxiety and an express need for a collective response,” Malzaire wrote. “I am also aware that many of you have communicated with your people providing liturgical guidelines and re-iterating precautions. I would like to thank you for your personal response to this crisis, a crisis that surely affects the dignity of the human persons.”
The Bishops were also urged to update themselves regularly with information on the virus from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“Moreover, I urge you to institute the necessary liturgical practices in your dioceses in a timely manner that would prevent a spread of this virus,” Malzaire said.
Some dioceses in the region have already stopped or suspended some actions practiced at Catholic liturgies in light of the virus.
For example, the Diocese of St George’s in Grenada has told Catholics that joining of hands during the Lord’s Prayer should be avoided until further notice.
It said the Sign of Peace should be reconsidered and there should be no shaking of hands and hugging.
“One may look the person in the eye with a simple bounce or a clear bow. Some young people have suggested a foot shake. If they can manage it between the pews, God bless them,” the diocese said in a statement.
Communion by tongue has been suspended and should be given by hand only, the statement pointed out. Sharing of the cup has also been suspended, except in small groups.
The Diocese of St George’s said that “If holy water is to be placed at the entrance of churches, a few drops of bleach should be put in it or it should be in bottles which allow people to sprinkle themselves.”