An empty holy water font at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre in Vancouver. Parishes in the Archdiocese of Vancouver have begun cancelling events in response to the coronavirus outbreak. B.C. Catholic photo

Churches putting precautions in place

  • March 11, 2020

As quickly as the coronavirus is spreading, dioceses in Canada have been working to implement measures to protect their parishioners.

The Diocese of Thunder Bay was the first Canadian diocese to implement Mass restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19, sending out an advisory on March 2.

“Due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus — COVID-19 — and even though there are no known cases in northern Ontario at this point,” Thunder Bay Bishop Fred Colli recommended a number of actions for parishes. These include:

  • No shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace, “but a slight bow to wish the peace of Christ to one another”;
  • Forgoing communion from the chalice; and
  • Communion ministers are asked to thoroughly wash their hands before every Mass.

Parishioners are also asked to wash their hands before coming to Mass, to not attend services if they are not well or with slight colds or coughs (“If you are sick, your obligation for Sunday Mass ceases,” said Colli), and parishes are asked to make sure their washrooms are clean and sanitized and door handles, railings, holy water stoups and the tops of pew backs be kept clean.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver followed March 5 by issuing a similar set of instructions. Many parishes began cancelling events in their churches, including RCIA classes, though Masses are continuing.

In the Archdiocese of Toronto, parishioners have been asked to take everyday precautionary measures, but on March 10, Cardinal Thomas Collins requested further measures similar to Thunder Bay.

School boards across Canada have also responded to the spread of COVID-19. Many are asking students and their families to take sanitary precautions, particularly in relation to travel with upcoming spring breaks. A number of boards, including the Toronto and Edmonton Catholic boards, have cancelled all international travel for students.

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