Better to be prepared than to react to a situation when you often times have your course of action dictated to you.

Level “A”
At this point, events suggest the increased risk for a pandemic, prompting the need to review plans and preparations for such an emergency and increase our level of caution.

• Parishes are to have bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer available for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. For example, these may be placed in the front pews (or other discreet but convenient place) and should then be used by these ministers both on their way to the sanctuary before communion and then again after ministering communion.
• All sick individuals, including clergy, are to stay home. Signs are posted on church, and parish/school doors instructing those with fever or other flu-like symptoms not to enter.
• Faith formation programs should be aware that camps, retreats, and other large youth gatherings may need to be postponed or cancelled, depending on local conditions. Youth ministers and catechists should keep up to date with the latest advice from public health authorities concerning such gatherings.
• Increase frequency of sanitizing door handles and other commonly touched solid surfaces.
• The vessels containing the bread and wine are to remain covered until placed on the altar.
• If a parish uses a large vessel at the entrance(s) of the church from which individual parishioners move hosts to the paten/ciborium, such a practice needs to stop at this point.
• Communion from the Cup is suspended. Only the priest and deacon if present are to commune from the Chalice—and then from opposite sides of the rim.
• In distributing communion, the Host shall be placed in the communicant’s hand without the minister touching the communicant.
• Communion on the tongue is discontinued.
• The practice of touching a non-communicant for a blessing is also to be discontinued.

Level “B”
In addition to the steps found in level “A”, the following steps (and modifications) are now to be added if necessary:

• Set up hand-washing stations in all buildings: tissues, trash receptacles, hand sanitizer, including instructions (signage).
• Sharing of the Sign of Peace by handshake or hug is suspended; rather, a simple bow/nod to one another will be used.
• Holding hands during Lord’s Prayer or any other part of the Mass is suspended.
• Ministers (incl. clergy and ministers of hospitality) are asked not to shake hands when they greet parishioners.
• Priests, deacons, readers, and servers—since they will be touching items in common—are to sanitize their hands before and after Mass, and during Mass if their hands become contaminated.
• On Good Friday, the Cross will be venerated by bow or genuflection, not by touch or kissing.
• In those places where it is the practice to venerate icons with a touch or kiss, that practice, too will be replaced with a bow.
• As far as pastoral visits to the sick are concerned, ministers should practice meticulous hand washing and—if the parishioner has symptoms of the flu virus—consideration should be given to wearing masks and gloves.
• Holy water fonts/stoops are emptied and refilled after each liturgical celebration and at least once daily.

Level “C”
In addition to the steps found in levels “A” and “B”, the following steps (and modifications) are now added if necessary:

• Staff or volunteers are to clean door handles and other hard surfaces (such as pews, water fountains, desks, tables, countertops washrooms) with a disinfectant. They should wear masks, gloves, and goggles when doing so and when emptying trash receptacles.
• Disinfecting should be done in parishes and chapels after each Liturgy (at least daily).
• Empty all baptismal and holy water fonts, including those that allow for full immersion; parishes should have pre-filled bottles of holy water available.
• Large group meetings should be postponed if at all possible. If not, participants should be seated with at least a 3’ distance between individuals.
• Home prayer booklets and other resources will be made available in case large group gatherings are suspended by Public Health authorities.
• The person preparing wine and hosts for Mass is also to wear a mask and non-latex gloves.
• Collection baskets are not to be passed person-to-person. It is preferred that a collection basket or locked poor box be placed at the entrance(s) of the church; alternatively, baskets with handles may be used (in which case ushers are to wear gloves and immediately wash their hands after the collection).
• Because the influenza virus can remain viable on surfaces for some time, the money collected is to be quarantined for 3 days before being counted. Those removing money from the collection baskets or boxes are to wear gloves and wash their hands afterwards.
• The collection is not carried in procession as part of the preparation of the gifts and altar.
• Due to their ability to transfer infection from hand-to-hand, common missalettes and song books should not be used.
• Worship aids, if used, should be printed for each occasion and then destroyed. Reprint permission pertaining to applicable copyright laws is to be followed.
• To the extent possible, the assembly will be seated in alternating rows, thereby increasing distance between individuals. In addition, it may become necessary to limit the number of individuals present for any one Mass.
• Non-essential gatherings—such as Children’s Liturgy of the Word and post-Mass social gatherings/refreshments—are to be cancelled.
• Turn off water fountains or mark them as not to be used. Bottled water should be available in case of necessity.

Level “D”
In addition to the steps found in levels “A”, “B”, and “C”, the following steps are now added if necessary:

• If Public Health authorities mandate that all large-group gatherings be suspended, parishes will comply and stop offering the Mass and other sacraments to groups. If such were to occur, the Bishop dispenses from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass.
• If public celebration of the sacraments is suspended, signs to that effect will be posted at entrances to the church and parish offices.



ROME, DEC. 18, 2012 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: After the swine flu epidemic last year, it became the practice in many of our diocesan parishes to use hand sanitizer before the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion distribute Communion. In one parish the presiding priest is even given a squirt of the sanitizer prior to his distribution of Communion as well. Am I being overly concerned or is this a strange practice? It is very distracting. — C.M., Springfield, Massachusetts

A: I do not think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer to such a question. Health situations and concrete possible dangers change from year to year, and the pastoral response must change according to the situations.

I would agree that a severe situation in one year should not be an avenue for the introduction of emergency practices on a permanent basis, as this is likely to lead to distractions for the faithful.

In periods of severe danger of contagion a bishop could even go so far as to exempt his flock from the Sunday obligation and even order the cancellation of public Masses. In recent years, and for different classes of infection, such situations have arisen in Ireland and Mexico.

In less severe situations lesser precautions may be taken, such as discouraging handshakes during the sign of peace, or a prudent and discreet use of disinfectant such as that described by our reader.

If the use of a hand sanitizer is deemed necessary, then it would be better for the extraordinary ministers to use it in the sacristy before beginning their services.

In the case of the priest, unless he has some cold symptoms himself, it is probably enough for him to use the sanitizer immediately before beginning Mass. It is unlikely for him to become contagious during the celebration itself, and this gesture is likely to make people more, rather than less, wary at the moment of receiving Communion.

For example, in my own experience, many long-term care centers for the elderly require visitors to sanitize only on entering the premises even though they might be spending some time in contact with the residents.

In spite of this, however, such means could be used immediately before communion if the situation warranted it. If the diocese has not issued particular norms, then the parish priest could ask for medical opinion with respect to taking reasonable precautions.

The faithful should also be aware that suffering from severe cold or flu is a sufficient justification for not attending Mass.

In more acute cases refraining from attending a crowded Mass could even be considered an obligation of charity, by not placing others at risk.

Finally, we must remember that, while prudence is necessary, most people who catch colds and flu don’t do so at Mass but rather at home, at work and at school where they spend most of their time and in close contact with others.