Over concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Archbishop of Bombay Cardinal Oswald Gracias, in a written advisory, has asked parish priests and heads of Catholic churches across the city to greet with ‘namaste’ and not kiss the idols. He has also advised not using the common cup during Holy Communion as a measure of precaution. Cardinal Gracias was re-elected as the president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India last month.
Cardinal Gracias’s advisory comes close on the heels of bishops of the dioceses of Olympia and Los Angeles in the US instructing their clergy to stop using the common cup. However, it is not yet known if the infection can be contracted this way. In Mumbai, seven suspected cases have tested negative in the last few days.
“Encourage our people to receive Holy Communion in the hand. On Good Friday, at the veneration of the cross, discourage people from kissing the cross. The blessing with a raised cross would be adequate. Those who desire, they could come in a queue, make reverence with a bow and go back. Before the distribution of the Holy Communion, the priest/minister could purify their hands in a bowl of water or sanitiser. Holy water stoops should be kept dry,” stated Cardinal Gracias in his advisory note.
The cardinal advised not to panic and said that the government is doing its best to face the challenge and everyone needs to cooperate to combat it effectively. He said his advisory is a temporary arrangement and will be reviewed over a period of time. He said, “These suggestions can be followed till Easter, April 12. If there is any indication that an individual in the community is infected, parish priests can temporarily suspend meetings of cells, sodalities and associations.”
Cardinal Gracias said these are basic precautions the church can take as the virus is rapidly spreading and has affected 70 countries, including India. He said there is no sign that the coronavirus has reached its peak as more details are being reported each day. He said, “I am sending this communication to all parishes and institutions in the Archdiocese of Bombay. After appropriate consultation, I will send a similar note to bishops across the country”
A resident of Perry Road and a parishioner from a church in Bandra, Anil Joseph said the Church in India should suspend masses for two months and instead televise or use social media. He said it is being followed in parts of Italy, where the pandemic has spread rapidly. Joseph said, “I think an appeal from the government to other religious faiths to do the same would be the right thing to do. The PM and some of his ministers have recently set an example by cancelling their upcoming Holi gatherings and celebrations.”