The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas is taking precautionary action in the wake of recent Ebola cases in Dallas, issuing a "liturgical adaptation" aimed at setting amended standards for worship that could help stem the spread of infectious diseases.
"Due to the upcoming influenza (flu) season and questions regarding communicable diseases, such as Ebola, we will be re-instituting the liturgical adaptations we have used in the past," reads a document published Wednesday on the diocese's website. "Please begin utilizing these adaptations immediately."
The document goes on to outline actions that Catholic priests and congregants should take in an effort to keep themselves and their fellow worshippers protected from the spread of bacteria and illness.
Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth
Among the guidelines, adherents are encouraged not to hold hands during the recitation of the "Our Father." And the "Sign of Peace" — the handshakes, kisses and other greetings that regularly unfold during Mass — will also be amended and replaced with "meaningful eye contact, smiles, and a bow of the head in reverence to one another."
As for communion, the document notes that congregants will be encouraged to receive it in their hands rather than on their tongues, though the "blood" will not be distributed during Mass.
Much of the responsibility for these standards will fall on priests, who are being encouraged to "practice good hygiene" and to wash their hands and use anti-bacterial solution both before and after they distribute communion.
"Priests and deacons should determine when they themselves should not distribute Holy Communion," the document reads. "In the event that altar servers or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are sick, whether it is the flu or the common cold, then he or she should not serve until the sickness has passed."
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The standards only mention the word "Ebola" once, as the prime focus appears to be on addressing communicable illnesses a bit more generally.
In an interview with Religion News Service, Pat Svacina, communications director for the diocese, said that the guidelines are the same ones used in years past and that there is no cause for alarm.
"This is just a normal thing. There is no panic whatsoever," Svacina said.
As Religion News Service reported, the Diocese of Dallas has not yet issued similar guidelines, though Bishop Kevin Farrell did offer up prayers for the individuals whose lives have been impacted by Ebola in a blog post published Wednesday.
Read the Diocese of Fort Worth's memo here.
(H/T: Religion News Service)
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