The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is joining other dioceses around the United States urging its churches to make changes on how they celebrate Mass because of the increased cases of the coronavirus in the United States.
There will no longer be the joining of hands during the Lord’s prayer and wine will no longer be distributed during Communion.
The coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the World Health Organization reports. The most recently discovered coronavirus disease is COVID-19.
Although there have been no reports of the coronavirus in the Rio Grande Valley, the diocese says “it is prudent to take precautionary measures to protect the public health.”
Bishop Daniel E. Flores is requesting churches implement the following modifications as soon as possible:
- Discontinuing the distribution of wine at Mass.
- Forgoing the holding of hands at the Lord’s prayers.
- A bow of the head for the Sign of Peace in place of shaking hands.
- Offering hand sanitizer stations at church and school entrances.
- Working with altar teams and parish volunteers to sanitize pews and hymnals.
- The removal of holy water from stoops at church doors.
Churches within the diocese on Thursday were sharing Flores’ message on their Facebook pages.
This was the second time in at least the last 11 years that the diocese had adopted such precautions. Similar measures were observed in 2009 when there was threat of swine flu across Mexico and the U.S.
As of 2016, the latest statistics from the Brownsville diocese, the Catholic population in the RGV is over 1.1 million. There are 71 parishes and 45 mission churches in the diocese.
The diocese is also asking parishes and schools to remind parishioners and students to follow safe hygiene practices. Churches should remind parishioners that if they are sick or are experiencing symptoms of sickness they should not attend Mass. Students who are ill should also stay home from school. Teachers, catechists and administrators should also send sick children home.
Liturgical ministers, especially those who distribute Communion, are to wash their hands before Mass or use personal bottles of hand-sanitizers before serving.
The diocese reports these safety precautions will remain in effect until they are withdrawn by Flores. Officials added the diocese will continue to monitor the situation and health advisories.
“If and when it becomes necessary we will take other preventive steps with regard to the celebration of the liturgy in our churches.”
The Cameron County Public Health Department reports there are five steps the public can take to prevent diseases from spreading that include avoid touching your face, wash your hands, disinfect areas, cover your mouth and nose when you either cough or sneeze and stay home if you are sick.
According to World Meter, there have been 209 confirmed cases and 12 deaths due to the Coronavirus in the United States. Texas has two reported cases, one out of Houston involving a 70-year-old man, who remains hospitalized under isolation. He is listed in stable condition. The other case involved a woman from Harris County. Information on her was not immediately available.
As of press time, there are 98,053 confirmed cases and 3,356 deaths worldwide.