Catholic churches emptying holy water fonts in coronavirus fight, Kerala clergy out of the loop

Catholic churches emptying holy water fonts in coronavirus fight, Kerala clergy out of the loop
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge

The Catholic Church is wary as the CoVID-19, the infectious disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, has spread to more countries after acquiring ominous proportions in China. 

Various arms of the largest Christian Church in various places world wide have directed local parishes to empty the fonts and stoups holding holy water. It is but one of the many measures initiated to curb the spread of the virus that has infected nearly 98,000 people and killed over 3,300 around the world. However, its ecclesiastical authorities in Kerala, which has a sizeable number of Catholics, is yet to release any official health alert in this regard.  

A spokesperson for Kerala Catholic Bishop's Council (KCBC) said no such directive has been received by the Kerala arm thus far.

“Making holy water available in a font is largely a western culture. It is not followed so much in Kerala. No order has been received by us as of now,” the spokesperson Bishop Joseph Pamplany said.

Fr Saji Kannaparamban, the parish priest of St Joseph's Church in Kochi, allayed fears that safety concerns would hamper the feast of St. Joseph on March 19. In this context, he cited the efficient health system in Kerala which recently reported the first case of coronavirus in India. 

However, both urged all people to follow the instructions as issued by the Health Ministry.

Elsewhere, Catholic churchgoers have also been advised to refrain from physical contact during the Sign of Peace, the liturgical practice during the service when parishioners usually greet each other with a handshake, hug or a kiss on the cheek. They are encouraged instead to bow, and also take the communion wafer by hand.

Catholic churches emptying holy water fonts in coronavirus fight, Kerala clergy out of the loop
Photo by Shalone Cason.

The Church has also advised parishioners to stay away if they are sick so as to not infect others.

In US, where the death toll from CoVID-19 has climbed to 11 with at least 31 reported cases, the Diocese of Brooklyn has decided to skip the Sign of Peace altogether during Masses.

In Italy, the epicentre of Europe's coronavirus outbreak, entire Masses have been cancelled with Bishops encouraging the faithful to watch the service from home. Vatican too have instituted strict measures. The catacombs, the underground burial places under Rome, have been closed temporarily.

The development comes at a time when the Christian faithful are observing Lent, a 40-day period of reflection and renewal culminating in Easter. 

Safety precautions have also seen the storied Nativity Church in Bethlehem closed indefinitely. Built on the grotto where Christians believe Jesus was born, the church joins a list of prominent tourist and holy sites to shutter their doors in the wake of rising fears over the spread of the virus. 

Though medical experts are yet to understand fully the source and spread of coronavirus, precaution against transmission of the virus through respiratory droplets has been urged.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.