Kaohsiung, TAIWAN – In cooperation with the church’s efforts to curb the outbreak of the novel coronavirus now called COVID-19, the Augustinian Recollect missionaries who are administering five parishes in the Diocese of Kaohsiung followed the pastoral directives of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference (CRBC) in Taiwan.
Recent news reports revealed that over 75,700 of people worldwide had been infected by this virus that purportedly originated in Wuhan, China, and, more than 2,000 among those infected had died.
Taiwan has 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection. Last February 16, 2020, a 61-year old male taxi driver in central Taiwan died of coronavirus infection. This was the first recorded death due to COVID-19 infection in Taiwan.
The Diocese of Kaohsiung, following the directives of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference (CRBC) in Taiwan, released Pastoral Guidelines on Epidemic Prevention dated January 30, 2020.
Signed by Most Rev. Peter Liu, the said guidelines aimed “to ensure that the sacramental care for the faithful remains unaffected and allowing peace of mind in the continuance of receiving the holy Eucharist and other Sacraments.”
It also laid down specific instructions for priests and the faithful to follow, such as wearing of face masks during the entire celebration of the holy mass and other sacraments, conscientious washing of hands, and availability of disinfectant alcohol in the church and other publicly used spaces within the church compound.
Other specific precautionary measures to prevent infection concerned the physical contact among the faithful. Hence, shaking of hands during greetings of peace, offertory procession, receiving of the Holy Communion by the mouth, imposition of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, kissing of the Cross on Good Friday, etc. were temporarily suspended.
The pastoral guidelines also enjoined the faithful “to cooperate with the government’s instructions during the epidemic prevention period and invites everyone to pray for those infected, quarantined and their families as well as the medical staff and those who care for the infected ones.”
Furthermore, the CRBC also released an official Prayer of Deliverance from the coronavirus outbreak which should be prayed at every Mass.
The four-member community of Recoletos missionaries in Kaohsiung faithfully continue to carry out the said guidelines in their parishes namely: San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish and Holy Cross Parish in Taliao; St. Joseph Parish and Our Lady of Victory Parish in Xiaogang; St. Augustine Parish in Linyuan; and the St. Ezekiel Moreno Chapel in Pingtung.
In spite of the scare brought about by this COVID-19 outbreak, the people in Taiwan although cautious, remain calm and confident about the country’s outstanding health care system and the response of its government in containing the spread of the dreaded virus.
(English translation of the Pastoral Letter)
Kaohsiung Diocese Epidemic Prevention Announcement
(Pastoral Letter of Most Rev. Peter Liu, D.D., Archbishop of Kaohsiung Diocese)
That all parishes in the Diocese, religious organizations and communities, be made aware of the Novel Coronavirus (Wuhan pneumonia or 2019-nCoV) to avoid infection and prevent its spread, I hereby announce the following pastoral guidelines.
This is to ensure the care of the faithful, so that everyone who participates in the mass and other sacraments may have peace of mind and their continued presence may not be hampered. Please pay attention and cooperate with the following matters:
1. The Church must be adequately ventilated; Put disinfection equipments in public places where people often come and go to disinfect their hands. Place soap on the sink to clean both their hands.
2. If you are unwell (cold, cough, asthma, fever, etc.) or have contacted a suspected patient, please do not participate in the mass. Instead, you may read the Scriptures, recite the Holy Rosary, pray, or do other good works at home.
3. Upon entering the Holy church, there is no need to dip your fingers on the holy water font to make the sign of the cross. Before entering the church, wear your own mask; the priest must also wear mask while celebrating the sacrament.
4. All things used in the Sacraments, especially liturgical items, must be disinfected with alcohol before and after their usage to keep them clean. Suspend the practice of the faithful putting their own communion host to the ciborium before mass, and of the faithful bringing the bread and wine during offertory procession.
5. Prepare hand cleansing liquid and even some masks at the entrance of the Church for the use of the faithful. Avoid sitting too close to each other during the Mass.
6. In order to reduce the risk of infection, the faithful should refrain from using liturgical books (missalettes) or songbooks. Just listen to the readings during the Mass; Use overhead projector for the songs.
7. During the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the priest and the faithful should wear face masks all throughout. The faithful only receives the Eucharist by hand. Before giving communion, the priest should sterilize his hands with alcohol, and then place the Eucharist on the hand of the faithful. Do not touch the palms of the faithful. A frail faithful or a faithful with disabled hands may be assisted by his or her family member or by the minister of the holy communion to receive holy Eucharist in the mouth. The persons assisting must wear masks and clean their hands afterwards.
8. Just nod with each other during the greetings of peace.
9. The Sacrament of Reconciliation may be done in a spacious room with the priest and penitent facing each other. Both the priest and the penitent must wear masks and, keep at least one meter distance with each other.
10. For your own health safety and that of others, every time you go out, you must wear a face mask in places where there are other people. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after touching any person or object.
(1) The above guidelines are effective until the Ministry of Health and Welfare lifts the warning.
(2) Please also read the guidelines of Taiwan Bishops Conference.
(3) During the epidemic prevention period, unless necessary, large-scale indoor and outdoor activities are suspended.
Besides cooperating with the government’s instructions during the epidemic prevention period, the whole Church invites everyone to pray to the Lord for those who were infected and quarantined and their families, that they may have a speedy recovery, and that God may bless and protect all the medical staff who care for them. We also entrust the epidemic prevention work through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May our fervent prayers and love for each other draw us closer to her Son. Holy Mary, Mother of God and Health of the Sick, pray for us.
Most Rev. Peter Liu, D.D,
Archbishop of the Diocese of Kaohsiung
January 30, 2020
Translated to English by Fray Joel G. Dequilla