Coronavirus leads Catholic churches to change Mass practices

As hospitals, schools and businesses prepare to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn released new protocols in an attempt to reduce the potential spread of the disease.

After receiving advice from medical experts, Fr Tony Percy, Vicar General for the Archdiocese, has sent a letter to Catholic communities, parishes, schools and hospitals, stating that the “Archdiocese will employ best practice and be prudent in trying to help reduce the transmission of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19).”

Effective immediately, all Priests, Deacons, Altar Servers and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist within the Archdiocese must wash their hands before the beginning of Mass. Those distributing Holy Communion also are being told to use the antibacterial solution before and after distributing Communion.

Additional guidelines for parishioners during Mass services include, according to a list distributed by the Archdiocese:

  • Avoiding physical contact during the sign of peace.
  • Holy Communion should be received only in the hand, not on the tongue.
  • The removal of Holy Water from all fonts.
  • Distribute the Sacred Host only and not the Precious Blood.

Other dioceses throughout the world are also limiting how Communion is distributed and taking steps to help reduce the transmission of the disease.

As of 3 March 2020, Australia has 33 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). (

 Click here to access the Commonwealth Department of Health coronavirus information page.

National advice on liturgical implications in light of coronavirus (COVID-19)

READ ALSO:  'The race is run, the work is done': Fr Neville Drinkwater farewelled


Wordpress (25)
  • Ilonka Clynk 3 years

    Will we also not give the holy blood ( wine) at Mass , because that would be a real problem with spreading this.

    • Wayne 3 years

      Ilonka you are right.
      Please see the Newer Post “National advice on liturgical implications in light of coronavirus (COVID-19)”. The sixth recommendation reads “Parishes should cease distributing Holy Communion from the Chalice until further notice. The faithful should be reminded that Christ is fully present under either species.”

    • Peter 3 years

      We participated in the Archbishop’s Mass Online for today 4th Sunday of Lent. It was a very commendable initiative, and we will continue with it in the present emergency.

      It was a very intimate experience, slightly marred by audio dropouts which could be in the path between our computer and TV.


  • Jan Baker 3 years

    What a faithless decision to withhold the Precious Blood. Obviously people have such little faith that they do not believe that the Precious Blood is more powerful than any virus in existence!

    It is widely believed that most Catholics do not believe in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I guess this proves it.

    • Thomas McBride 3 years

      I agree. If we’re going to do away with all of these things, why not go the full Protestant?

    • Che 3 years

      I certainly agree, The Holy Communion is our Lord it will strengthen us and heal us body and soul.  Let us pray to increase our Faith.  The body of Christ must only be received on the tongue 

    • Lynn Bale 3 years

      While I understand what you are saying Jan. I don’t think it’s a faithless decision to cease having the Precious Blood at the moment. I never receive the Blood when I have a cold out of consideration for others. I think at present it is a sensible decision.  I think you will find that many people will probably refrain from taking it anyway.

    • Luis 3 years

      Whether receiving the Eucharist under either ‘species’, i.e. under the appearance of either wine or the host, it has always been my understanding that orthodox Catholic teaching has not changed and either species is truly the ‘body, blood, soul and divinity’ of Christ. Neither is ‘inferior’ to the other, or ‘incomplete’ in some way.

      • Mary Ryan 3 years

        People should be more understanding, , I feel not receiving the wine , is one positive way  to  help us avoid the dreaded.virus,

  • Lynn Bale 3 years

    While I believe it’s a sensible approach to receive communion in the hand. I can see this being a challenge for people who are culturally used to receiving communion on the tongue.
    Also will the practice of members of the Parish community placing the sign of the cross on Babies and Children presented  for Baptism cease?

    • Philip 3 years

      Yes it has ceased and Extraodinary Ministers of Holy Communion are no longer to bless or touch anyone. Blessings only from priests.

  • Glenda 3 years

    Sensible move which should be in place each winter.
    It is important that our Churches are safe places of worship!!!

  • Tim Morton 3 years

    Well said Jan.

    The precious blood of our Lord and Saviour was shed to wipe away the sin of the world (before, now and future). Does the Church really believe it can’t protect those of us who truly believe!

    Every year there are flu’s and we still have the Precious Body and Blood of our Saviour without falling ill.

    I have a painful response to the smallest amount of wheat flour and have never experienced any discomfort in receiving Our Lord in the Communion Host.

    The Blood of our Saviour should always be offered to those who truly believe in what we are receiving.

    I pray for the Precious Blood of Our Saviour to Save and protect us.

    • Solomon Gomez 3 years

      I believe in the 100 percent presence of Christ Body and Precious Blood in either species. It is wise decision to receive Christ Body on hand and those who wish to receive Christ Precious Blood should be allowed to receive from the chalice.

      My faith tells me no Corona Virus is more powerful than my Christ Precious Blood. It’s my believe, my faith, and I should be given a choice to receive or not to receive. Do you remember that lady in the Bible who had faith that if she touches the clock of Christ and will be healed from disease disturbing for 12 years and she was healed.

      I believe that Corona Virus is nothing in front of my Lord Jesus Christ Precious Blood and Body. The church should tell as per national health policy but let the faithful decide to act as per their faith.
      God Bless Us and strengthen our faith.

  • Gavin O'Brien 3 years

    I would assume that that contact will also have to cease until further notice.

  • Evelyn Pond 3 years

    I am glad to see this reasonable approach being taken. As one who seems to catch colds and viruses every year, I must admit that I have often balked at dipping my fingers in the Holy Water font, shaking hands (gesturing instead) and sharing the cup. Jesus did say that we should not put the Lord our God to the test when he refused to jump off the cliff. 

  • Margaret Kilby 3 years

    Why are the authorities not trusting in God’s will?  😔

  • Lynn Bale 3 years

    I don’t believe this is a matter of not trusting in God’s will. I believe it’s a matter of being sensible. The Church has sought medical advice on this. I believe it’s God’s will for the Church to take care of it’s People. Besides it’s only in recent times that the People received Communion under both Species and it’s still the case that in some celebrations its still received under one Species this does not in any way lessen  the significance of sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ.

  • Rick 3 years

    I do understand the need to do this, but it does seem sad. 

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the sign of peace lately. At some Masses it feels a bit perfunctory and a matter of routine rather than love or community or a wish for peace. It’s a shame not to shake hands. 

    When worshipping in Asia, or an old parish I used to attend when I lived in Sydney with a large Asian population, it was more common to bow or make a small gesture with hands and I suppose I’ll go back to that for a while. But it does feel a shame that this part of the Mass feels a bit forgotten generally and this won’t help. 

  • Neil Dunn 3 years

    While I can’t fault the faith of those being critical of the announced practices, they do remind me of the old story of the undying faith of the man in the flood.
    As the waters were rising and the roads would soon be cut off, a neighbour who was evacuating offered the faithful man a lift. “No thanks, God will save me”. And off drove the neighbour. As the waters continued to rise, two feet above floor level, the faithful man sat on a table in his house looking out the window. An SES officer came past in a little dinghy and begged the faithful man to come with him. “No thanks, God will save me”. The SES officer tried but the man would not leave. Some hours later, the faithful man was on the roof of his house with the floodwaters lapping at the gutters. A helicopter spotted him, lowered it’s rope ladder and assumed the man would take advantage of this stroke of luck. “No thanks, God will save me” he shouted. The helicopter had to leave. The man drowned. At the pearly gates, the man could not believe what had happened. “I was sure that God would save me”. A booming voice came from nowhere and from everywhere: “I sent you a car, I sent you a boat, I even sent you a helicopter, but you wouldn’t leave. Were you waiting for a giant hand to come through the clouds?”
    I believe that Yes, God will save and protect us, but perhaps he is doing this by guiding us to make sensible decisions and take appropriate precautions.

    • Kevin Totterdell 3 years

      Good one, Neil. Are you the brother of Lyle Dunn, who was a great friend of mine in years past?

  • Frank 3 years

    Thank you Neil, an excellent appraisal of the present situation.

  • SERENA GRASSIA 3 years

    I think the Church is been sensible, this is a decision based for Public Health. We must remember these precautions are happening in other places in the world. The Archbishop of Manila has said it is for the wellness of the community in this unusual time no wine and emptying holy water fonts are sensible actions. This is hygienic decision made to stop spread of illness on the back of flu season. We can still go to mass and activities in church so far other religious communities totally ban public gatherings. We arent in lockdown like in Italy. This is very important we can still have community gatherings at Easter.

  • Peter and Valerie 3 years

    We viewed the Online Mass of the Archbishop, and it is a very commendable inititative during the health emergency.

    It was an intimate spiritual experience, and we thank him for it.

    Technically, we had some audio dropouts, probably as likely at our end as at source.

    We will certainly  come back for more online masses. 

  • David 3 years

    Those of us who don’t want to believe the power of the COVID-19 infection need to consider the principle of “faith with good works”.  We must honour and respect the elderly and vulnerable in our community by doing everything we can to limit the spread of this virus, for which there is no vaccine.  The earliest the scientists think they might have a vaccine is 12 months from now.  Have faith and combine it with good works.  Half measures will not work.