Coronavirus fears lead Holy Land Catholic churches to give communion by hand only

Roman Catholic authorities in Jerusalem on Friday instructed priests to communion by hand only.

The authorities added that the priest should stop placing the wafers on worshippers’ tongues, and to empty holy water fonts as precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced the measures on Thursday, shortly after the start of Lent, the 40-day season that leads up to Easter.

Millions of pilgrims frequent Jerusalem and other holy cities such as Nazareth and Bethlehem each year.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Vatican’s apostolic administrator, said statement that with its many visitors the Holy is “unique situation”.

The guidelines include receiving Communion by hand only, rather placing the wafer directly on the recipient’s tongue, and avoiding having the faithful receive Communion from the chalice.

In the communion ceremony, worshippers receive a wafer called a host and often sip wine, or dip the wafer into wine in the chalice putting it in mouths.

Catholics believe that the host and wine, after consecration by a priest, become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Pizzaballa’s statement also offered a preventive suggestion to empty the holy water fonts – typically metal or stone basins filled with blessed water that are often placed at the entrance to a church.

The Latin diocese is the Vatican’s representative in holy cities across Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as in Jordan and Cyprus.

It’s most famous churches are Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, where he is believed to been born, and Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation.

Earlier on Friday, Israel confirmed its second case of coronavirus, a person it said had been in contact with a man who tested positive after visiting Italy. (Reuters/NAN)

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