(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – The Roman Church in Trinidad and Tobago has ceased serving wine among several other precautionary measures as the threat of the spread of the coronavirus looms large over the Caribbean.
Some of the other major changes taking effect yesterday include Holy Communion only being distributed in the hand and not on the tongue. The archdiocese also stated that no holy water, usually present at the entrance of churches, will not be dispensed for members of the congregation.
The sign of peace will also no longer be a handshake, with the church encouraging parishioners to “make a small bow instead”.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon said the measures were implemented because the church is taking every precaution possible as the country braces for the possible threat. However, only on Tuesday, the archdiocese had released a statement saying it would not be changing its liturgical celebrations just yet.
Yesterday, however, Archbishop Gordon said of the change of heart, “The Ministry of Health upped the guidelines for the whole country and we’re keeping pace with their guidelines, so as they up, we up.”
He added that not distributing wine will not have as big an impact as people may think, as many masses usually are celebrated without the blood of Christ being served to the faithful.
“Restricting one or the other is not a new thing. Many times Masses will not distribute under both body and blood. We’re restricting in the abundance of all caution,” the Roman Catholic head said.
He went further in explaining the decisions made by the interdisciplinary team of the church, saying, “Why no receiving on the tongue, because that’s an easy way for contagion. If a small particle on your fingers going into the mouth of the next person, that’s one way of transporting the virus. Why no chalice? Well, that’s another way contagion. So all the ways, the holy fount because of the sponge that resides in it you put your hand in, the next person puts their hand in, the virus can link.”
Archbishop Gordon said if the coronavirus should come to this country, his church will be ready to be part of the response.
He said, “There is no specific plan at this stage. We don’t have a lot of medical institutions but we do have a lot of resources and places that we could make available if we need to make temporary hospitals and things like that. We would make spaces available that we would have,” he said.
The Anglican church also announced similar measures to combat the possible spread of the virus.
Effective immediately, until further notice, full precautionary measures must be followed at all Catholic Masses and Services:
• Holy Communion will be distributed only in the hand (not on the tongue)
• No distribution of the Precious Blood
• At the exchange of the Sign of the Peace, no handshakes are to be given (make a small bow instead)
• No holy water will be provided for use in public spaces
• Ministers who distribute communion must sanitise hands before and after distribution
• Sanitise or wash hands with soap before and after church and after leaving church restroom
• Cough or sneeze into a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw tissue into a closed bin
• Seek medical assistance and stay isolated if you exhibit any flu-like symptoms