4 March 2020

My dear Brothers and Sisters

As you would be aware, the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is presenting many serious challenges to people, authorities and Governments around the world, including here in Australia. It is therefore beholden on me as Bishop of Townsville to act in the best interests of our Mass going population to ensure that we are all playing our part in supporting the health and safety of parishioners and people of the region.

Our other Agencies such as Townsville Catholic Education Office, Centacare, Mary MacKillop Childcare Service and Saints Catholic College have met with me today to plan a coordinated response across the Diocese. Communication from these entities will be forthcoming. In terms of parishes, clergy and lay faithful however, I issue the following directives effective immediately:

- In those parishes (schools) where Communion is distributed under both kinds, the practice of distributing the precious blood will cease except for the celebrant only.

- Given that one of the easiest ways to transmit a virus is by the transmission of saliva, Communion will be received only in the hand.

- Holy water should be removed from stoops at the doors of Churches.

- Clergy and parishioners should not touch each other by shaking hands at the kiss of peace. A nod or a smile is appropriate with the words “Peace be with you”.

- All ministers of Holy Communion (both ordinary and extraordinary) are to wash their hands with soap and hot water before distribution of Holy Communion commences.

- People who are sick with flu like symptoms are to stay at home and not come to Mass until their sickness passes.

I will be monitoring the situation on a daily basis and please God we can return to our usual practices when the threat is judged to be non-existent or low. Of course, ongoing vigilance is essential, threat or no threat.

We pray for the victims of this virus around the world (Australia included). May we play our part in doing what we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. I present these directives after communications with other Bishops including a local doctor who is a Director of the Public Health Unit, and other advisers. Similar directives have already been issued around the world.

Thank you in anticipation of your understanding and cooperation.

Bishop of Townsville
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