CHICAGO - The Archdiocese of Chicago is changing how priests and parishioners interact during mass to limit exposure to coronavirus amid a possible outbreak.
The new guidelines eliminate the use of the chalice during communion and suspend handshaking during the sign of peace, Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Thomas said in an emailed statement.
Priests and church staff are also urged to refrain from distributing communion wafers to the tongue, given “the frequency of direct contact with saliva in the distribution,” according to the statement.
The guidelines come as health officials were testing a fifth Illinois resident for coronavirus. Turns out, the patient tested negative for the disease, the University of Chicago Medical Center announced late Tuesday night.
Parishioners are also being advised against holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and to avoid using the Holy Water fonts. Priests and other church staff have been told to wash their hands before Mass and before distributing communion.
The archdiocese reminded parishioners they are not obliged to attend mass if they are sick or experiencing symptoms of sickness.
The rules, effective immediately, are based on guidance from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship, according to the statement.
On the weekend, the Joliet Diocese urged church leaders to “err on the side of caution” and implement similar practices to limit physical contact to prevent the spread of coronavirus. At the time, the Archdiocese of Chicago said it had no plans to alter its own practices.
More than 100 cases have already been confirmed in the U.S. — resulting in six deaths.
In South Korea, an outbreak of coronavirus has been blamed on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus and its communal practices. More than half of the country’s 4,355 cases coronavirus cases have been linked to members of the religious sect.