Like other institutions, churches are taking drastic measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. In order to protect worshippers, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has excused local Catholics from attending mass due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Archbishop Nelson Perez announced the decision Thursday.
“Effective immediately, and until further notice, in union with the Bishops of Pennsylvania, I have dispensed the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass,” Perez said. “Despite the suspension of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, all regularly scheduled masses will remain open to the public for those who wish to attend.”
As an example of the new norms to apply in places of worshipping, traditional heartwarming hugs and handshakes among the members must be avoided.
Pastor Bob Oliver from the New Covenant Church of Philadelphia said, “we take it very seriously and last week from the pulpit, I communicated that we should refrain from hugging, from handshaking.”
Oliver says that the intention is to protect its most vulnerable members like the elderly and those with vulnerable health conditions.
“We have people in our congregation who are elderly, who we love with our whole heart, we want to protect them,” Oliver said. “We have a team of physicians and nurses who I’m working with to develop information that we can post on our website, that we can communicate and make certain that people get information they need to stay healthy.”
The Catholic Church has implemented changes related to the Mass service across the nation including the suspension of the use of shared chalices during communion.
Many priests are also asking parishioners not to shake hands.
Currently, it is a priority to sanitize thoroughly the places of worship.
“We have Purell stations all around. We also have made certain that we have disinfected surfaces, every doorknob, every entryway,” Oliver said.
The church has also considered the possibility of live streaming sermons if the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen.
“Keep the faith, resist the germs. Knowing that God is able to protect us from any and everything, but we also have to be responsible smart citizens,” Oliver said.