By Bonny Van and Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Baton Rouge Bishop Michael G. Duca is urging the faithful to act with commonsense and not out of “irrational fear” in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.  

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“Out of abundance of caution and also because of concern that our people are expressing, we decided to make some changes to our liturgy and provide some recommendations to our people so that we might minimize the possible transmission of this virus,” said Bishop Duca during a press conference at the Catholic Life Center in Baton Rouge on March 5.  

The meeting came two days after the diocese released a statement on recommended changes that were suggested by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The changes to the liturgy, according to the bishop, include temporarily suspending the offering of the Communion cup to all the faithful and directing the faithful at Mass not to hold hands during the Our Father  prayer; and not shaking hands at the sign of peace. The sign of peace can instead be made with a gesture, a smile or bow. The recommendations given include urging parishioners who are sick to stay home and suggesting the faithful receive Communion on the hand rather than the tongue. This recommendation for how to receive Communion is a suggestion and each Catholic can still chose to receive Communion as they wish.  

“We know that (coronavirus) can exist in our midst before we are aware of it. So, while we’re gathering in large numbers, especially during the season of Lent, we want to make sure that our people are safe,” said Bishop Duca. 

According to the bishop, those who must stay home can watch Mass from St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge on Catholic Life Television on Channel 15 and on the station’s social media platforms at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. The broadcast is repeated at 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.