Following the outbreak of the respiratory disease Coronavirus the New Zealand Bishops’ National Liturgy Office have notified parishes about precautions to take to ensure the safety of people gathering for Mass and other parish gatherings and especially receiving Holy Communion.
The notice issued 30 January 2020 said: With New Zealand health officials saying it is highly likely the Wuhan Coronavirus will arrive in our country, every institution and gathering place needs to take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of all people. This affects our celebrations of the Mass and other parish gatherings, and especially the reception of Holy Communion.
Should outbreaks of the virus be recorded in New Zealand, up-to-date information and clear procedures will be implemented, but at this time it is sufficient to remind parishioners that:
The reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus in communion from the chalice as well as in the host, while a more complete sign of communion, is not necessary in order to receive all the fruit off Eucharistic grace, since each form alone is the complete reality of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is not essential that parishioners receive from the chalice especially when the threat to health is great.
While communion on the tongue is approved, the possibility of passing infection between parishioners using this method is greatly increased.
Many parishioners will be aware of their own vulnerability of health, or perhaps have had contact with family who have recently returned from parts of the world where the virus is present. Therefore they may wish to restrict bodily contact during the Sign of Peace or at other times. In these circumstances the greeting of peace can be exchanged by speaking the words ‘Peace be with you’ or similar.
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will already be practicing standard health precautions, washing hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitisers and ensuring that the chalice purificator is used appropriately.
While it is not necessary at this stage to impose uniform practices this will be done if necessary. At this time all parishioners are asked to take precautions to ensure their own good health and the safety of others. Parishes will be asked to take extra cautions if these are deemed necessary.
Coronavirus was officially renamed on 11 February 2020 by the World Health Organisation as Covid-19 – an abbreviation of CoronaVirus Disease, 2019. The respiratory virus originated in China and the disease has infected more than 79,000 people and killed around 2000.