Joliet Diocese urges changes amid coronavirus concerns

In a recent letter, Bishop Richard Pates advised all parishes to suspend handshaking or embracing during the sign of peace and to stop doling out wine during communion.

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MARCIA RULES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Rev. Father Dominic Cassidy celebrates the Eucharist during a Silver Jubilee Mass on Wednesday 7/21/99 at Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin. The popular, sometimes unconventional cleric has spent 22 of his 25 years in the priesthood as a hospital priest.

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The Diocese of Joliet is urging church leaders to “err on the side of caution” by making changes to services as new cases of coronavirus crop up around the globe, including one in the Chicago suburbs.

In a recent letter, Bishop Richard Pates advised all parishes to suspend handshaking or embracing during the sign of peace and to stop doling out wine during communion. Pates said the new directive will stay in place“until such time as prudence dictates that our normal practices be resumed.”

“At this time, because of unknown dimensions of this virus and its rapid spreading world-wide, prudence and prayer are called for,” he added.

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A letter Bishop Richard Pates penned to parishes in the Diocese of Joliet regarding considerations being taken in the wake of the spread of coronavirus.

Pates further advised those handing out communion to remember to wash their hands and reminded sick worshippers they aren’t obligated to attend Mass. Similar considerations are also being recommended by the Archdiocese of Chicago, which has shared public health information about the coronavirus with schools and parishes.

However, Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Susan Thomas said the spread of the coronavirus hasn’t prompted plans “to make provisions for the suspension of the sign of peace or Holy Communion from the Chalice” at its parishes.

“[E]veryone should exercise prudence especially since it is cold/flu season,” Thomas noted. “As we continue to monitor its spread, we could alter our liturgical practices.”

The heightened awareness comes as public health officials announced Saturday that a person in suburban Cook County tested positive for coronavirus, marking the third confirmed case in Illinois.

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