The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has asked Rev. Fathers to start a new procedure of giving the Holy Communion to check likely spread of the Ebola virus.
The Holy Communion will now be given on the palm as against placing it on the tongue of the recipient. Many Catholic churches have already adopted the procedure, and carried it out yesterday during communion.
The stoppage of hand shake by worshippers done during consecration of the Holy Communion as sign of peace, is said to have also been banned.
Here is a statement from the Catholic Lagos Archdiocese
TO ALL PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS WORKING IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF LAGOS, AND THE LAY FAITHFUL.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
THE OUTBREAK OF EBOLA VIRUS: A PASTORAL APPROACH
The outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease has triggered off so much fear, anxiety and panic in and outside the Church. This unnerving scare is heightened by the fact that the disease is highly contagious and extremely dangerous with devastating impact on communities where it exists. Whereas the scale of infection is unprecedented, there is need to exercise caution in the way and manner we disseminate information on the Ebola epidemic so as not to increase the already existing hysteria about the disease.
Incidentally, while viruses like the Ebola emerge relatively infrequently, the horrendous impact they have on people call for extraordinary measures to contain its spread and transmission. Within seven days of the Ebola in Lagos, we have received many expressions of concern on how to prevent its spread in the Church. In the absence of a known cure or licensed human vaccine for Ebola, we have resolved to take some precautions in the Church to prevent and forestall a possible spread.
1.Awareness and Sensitization: Priests should enlist the services of Medical Doctors and other health workers in sensitizing the people on Ebola: its symptoms, effects, preventive measures, management of self and how to handle an infected person, etc.
2.Hand Sanitizer (Personal Hygiene): Priests should encourage the people to practice frequent washing of hands with suitable anti-bacterial hand-washing liquid and use of hand sanitizers.
3.Sick Call: Priests should exercise caution when they go for sick calls particularly when they have to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. They should ensure regular hand washing after visiting patients in the hospital or homes.
4.Counting Offerings/Collection: Priests should encourage the use of gloves.
5.Distribution of Communion:The Bishops of the Province will be meeting next week to discuss, among other matters, the issue of communion in the hand. Meanwhile, the traditional means of distributing and receiving communion (Hand to Mouth) should be maintained until we give contrary information. In doing this, Priests should be cautious and pay attention to ensure that they do not touch the tongue of recipients. If necessary a Purificator should be used while distributing Holy Communion.
6.The Sign of Peace: Taking into consideration the fact that this rite is optional, we shall henceforth omit it i.e. not invite people to offer the sign of peace. When you get to this rite, skip it. Note also, that the recent Circular from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments acknowledged this when it stated: �It is completely legitimate to affirm that it is not necessary to invite �mechanistically” to exchange the sign of peace. This rite is optional” the congregation reminded.
7.Holy Water Bowls: The use of Holy Water Fonts at the entrance of the Church should be discontinued forthwith until the virus alert is lifted. This does not preclude private use of Holy Waters in homes and offices.
8.Washing of hands: Wash hand bowls and soap should be provided in the sacristy for regular use by Altar Servers and Priests while hand sanitizers are to be provided where necessary.
In the light of the above, all Priests and Administrators of Institutions are encouraged to exercise pastoral initiative, discretion and great caution in the dissemination of information in order to ensure that the people are duly informed without escalating the already panicky situation.
Let us bear in mind that we live in a fragile world that is increasingly susceptible to devastating epidemics. While we seek human solutions, let us not fail to raise our eyes to heaven from where comes our ultimate help. More than ever, let us turn to God with prayers, supplications and pleas.
Let us also pray for all the victims of this dreaded disease and their families, and commend the souls of those who have died in the wake of this outbreak
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