Catholics celebrate Mass at Hong Kong’s Catholic Cathedral with protective masks Feb. 2, 2020. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has issued liturgical guidelines to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, while encouraging prayers for those already affected by the disease.  (CNS Photo/Francis Wong)

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has issued a set of directives for the celebration of Mass designed to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The directives, which have been approved by Archbishop Nelson Perez and provided to archdiocesan clergy, take immediate effect until further notice as follows:

Holy Communion: 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 Centers for Disease Control have stated that hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus.


The distribution of the Precious Blood to liturgical ministers and the faithful has been suspended. In its announcement, the archdiocese observed that according to Catholic teaching, the whole Christ — in both his Body and Blood — is present when only the host is received.

But parishes should make provisions for reception of the Precious Blood for persons with celiac disease who cannot digest the gluten in wheat hosts, according to the archdiocese.

Sign of peace: Noting that the invitation to the sign of peace is an optional yet regular part of liturgical practice, the archdiocese advises pastors to “consult the local community for how best to observe” the gesture during the current coronavirus outbreak, adding that “perhaps a head bow could replace the customary handshake.”

The archdiocese has also advised that holy water fonts “are to be drained and refreshed more frequently than usual to avoid any possible contamination.”

Prayers for the prevention of the virus and those affected should be included in the universal prayer during Mass, said the archdiocese, with the faithful encouraged “to be thoughtful and vigilant” in practices that “prevent the spread of sickness and protect the good health of one another.”

Archdiocesan spokesman Kenneth Gavin said the archdiocese “will continue to monitor coronavirus developments closely” and “will also take further action as necessary based on the guidance of national and local health agencies.”