PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is putting together guidelines for parishes amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.
At the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Tuesday night, there was an evening of song and prayer celebrating the life of Saint Katherine Drexel of Philadelphia.
It was feast day of St. Katharine Drexel at her shrine at the Cathedral and the faithful gathered to mark the event.
In the wake of the coronavirus, church officials were asking parishioners to use good common sense advising people to stay home if they are sick with the flu and for those who are otherwise sick with the common cold.
"We would ask them to refrain from receiving the precious blood, that is drinking from the chalice. That's a normal routine expectation during cold season or the flu," said Father Dennis Gill of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
During services, people ordinarily shake hands as a sign of peace. But presently, parishioners are being asked to use good judgment and consider bowing to each other instead but not waving.
"The wave is saying hello, but the sign of peace is a greeting that expresses the shared peace of Christ among us and so I would refrain from the wave and suggest perhaps a bow if you're not going to shake a person's hand," said Gill.
And finally, if things get really bad, at what point would they consider canceling services altogether?
"It's too soon to answer a question like that because we're certainly listening to the information that comes to us from other sources because the church, as far as the coronavirus, the spread of the virus and what should be done for public gatherings, it's just too soon," said Father Gill.
Philadelphia health officials say one person in the city is being investigated for possible coronavirus.
No cases have been confirmed in the Delaware Valley to date.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia released the following guidelines until further notice:
All priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are to wash their hands with soap
and water prior to the celebration of Mass. A hand sanitizer may be used in the pew by the extraordinary
minister prior to the distribution of Holy Communion. In addition to the usual purification of fingers with
water after the distribution of Holy Communion, all Communion ministers should again wash their hands.
The distribution of the Precious Blood to liturgical ministers and the faithful is to be suspended. As
Catholics our Faith informs us that the whole Christ, that is his Body and Blood, is present when only the
host is received. Provisions, however, should be made for Catholics who can only receive the Precious
Blood for Communion because of celiac conditions.
SIGN OF PEACE
The invitation to the Sign of Peace, although a regular part of our liturgical practice, is always an option.
Pastors should consult the local community for how to best observe the Sign of Peace during this period.
Perhaps a head bow could replace the customary handshake.
Holy water fonts are to be drained and refreshed more frequently than usual to avoid any
Philadelphia Archdiocese issues guidelines to prevent spread of coronavirus