CLEVELAND — As concerns about the coronavirus continue to grow, religious institutions across Northeast Ohio are taking steps to help prevent the spread of the illness.
The Roman Catholic Dioceses of Cleveland, Steubenville, and Youngstown have asked all parishes to stop serving wine during Holy Communion until further notice, with exceptions only being made for those with celiac disease. In addition, the Diocese of Toledo is recommending its parishes do the same, although it is leaving the final decision up to pastors for now.
"Everyone is encouraged both during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and at all times to be thoughtful and vigilant in practices that prevent the spread of sickness and disease and protect the good health of one another," the Diocese of Cleveland said in a statement, adding that parishioners should not come to Mass if they are sick.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday declared a state of emergency in the state after three people tested positive for the coronavirus in Cuyahoga County. On Tuesday, he also recommended that all colleges and universities conduct classes online until further notice, and also asked that all indoor sporting events go without most spectators.
"We are at a critical time, and we need to get this right," DeWine said. "Every action each of us takes will help save lives."
The governor also noted the steps religious institutions have already taken in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and also called on them to assist as usual in helping those affected. Besides the wine measures, dioceses are also advising parishes to avoid having the congregation shake hands during the optional sign of peace, and while Communion will still be offered via bread, those wishing to receive it on the tongue are asked to be extremely cautious. Facilities and holy water fountains are also to be cleaned regularly.
So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 4,200 people worldwide, including 30 in the United States. No deaths have yet been confirmed in Ohio.
The Diocese of Columbus, which includes Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties, has not issued a directive on Communion wine at this time. However, Bishop Robert J. Brennan is still joining other dioceses in asking Eucharistic ministers to take extra hygiene measures when serving.
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