As public health officials in Pennsylvania and beyond continue to track the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and widespread flu activity, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton is announcing new precautions for the celebration of Mass in the 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton.

Effective immediately, Bishop Bambera has implemented the following directives:

  • The distribution of the Precious Blood via the Chalice is temporarily suspended
  • The Sign of Peace will now be exchanged without physical contact

“As of today, it is important to emphasize that there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, but the situation across the country is changing rapidly,” Bishop Bambera said. “The safety and health of our local faith community and all of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania is a priority for me.”

At this time, the Diocese is monitoring all information and updates being provided by federal, state and local government officials.

In addition to the temporary changes that are taking effect immediately, Bishop Bambera also issues the following reminders:

  • Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should practice good hygiene, washing their hands before Mass begins or even using an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion
  • Parishioners are also reminded that if they are sick, especially with flu-like symptoms, they should stay home for their own well-being and that of others. If parishioners are sick or suspect they are sick with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation

In addition to the new directives being implemented today, Bishop Bambera reminds everyone of basic personal hygiene practices which are outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They include:

  • Covering coughs or sneezes with your elbow instead of hands
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes and other frequently touched items

The new precautions will continue as long as deemed necessary by the Bishop.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and be ready to make any updates as needed,” Bishop Bambera added.