The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, issued to parishes a number of suggested precautions to promote safe worship environments for the faithful during the current influenza conditions. The precautions below are not mandatory, rather, suggestions for pastors to consider when assessing local conditions.
“As pastors committed to promoting and protecting the well-being of our parishioners, we need to be as cautious and prudent as possible in responding to this public health threat…,” wrote Bishop Tobin to pastors. “Since conditions vary from one locale to another, I believe that the most effective approach is at the level of the local parish.”
Following the latest reports from the Rhode Island Department of Public Health categorizing the statewide estimate of influenza activity as ‘widespread,’ pastors may consider the following guidelines and recommendations to help prevent the spread of the flu virus and other seasonal illness:
•The Sign of Peace need not be announced or exchanged.
•The distribution of Holy Communion with the Precious Blood from the chalice should be discontinued for the time being.
•Those distributing Holy Communion should use hand sanitizer before Mass or even immediately before distribution.
•Provide hand sanitizers at the door of the church, school, or other public buildings.
•Parishioners are dispensed from – and should not attend — Holy Mass if they have symptoms of serious illness.
•Ask the Lord’s protection upon our community during this time of widespread illness.