Coronavirus – Be not afraid

“Noli timere” Be not afraid

A Pastoral letter from the Primus to the Communion




    • How long the virus can survive
    • Preventing the spread of infection
    • How to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus (social distancing)

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Hebrews 6:11-12


As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts our respective countries and communities, it is essential that pastors and leaders of the churches keep themselves updated on developments and Government directives in order to keep themselves and the faithful protected and served during this critical time.

Pastors particularly must do everything they can to keep themselves healthy in order to be able to serve the vulnerable, isolated and even the infected. Although the statistics may appear alarming, the vast majority of infected people suffer only mild symptoms and survive; only the very vulnerable with previous underlying – particularly respiratory – medical conditions are considered to be in any serious danger of death. However, each pastor should exercise prudence concerning his own health and that of others when considering ministering to those affected.

There is as yet no agreed consensus on exactly how the contagion is spread, but all current expert opinion suggests it is by contact i.e. via infected surfaces e.g. skin contact, fabrics including clothing and metal surfaces and possibly airborne by infected droplets via coughing and sneezing. Hand-washing for at least 20 seconds with hot soap and water, sanitising with products containing 60% and higher alcohol content, together with coughing/sneezing into tissues and throwing them away, is the most common advice for people to follow anywhere at the present time.

It should also be remembered that it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to manifest after contracting the Coronavirus, meaning people may be infected without knowing that they are and others may be carriers similarly without knowing. This is why the advice to wash hands regularly should be strictly followed and applied.

As the contagion spreads and infection rates increase in different countries, advice and information will develop and change. Everyone has a duty to keep themselves informed. Make sure that reliable and authoritative sources of information only are referenced and adhered to. Follow their advice. Remember to check regularly for updates.


People experiencing the following symptoms should stay at home and away from contact with other people.

  1. a high temperature – feeling hot to touch on chest or back;
  2. a new, continuous cough – i.e. started coughing repeatedly;
  3. difficulty in breathing.

Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.


Spread of COVID-19 is most likely to happen when there is close contact (within 2 metres) with an infected person. It is likely that the risk increases the longer someone has close contact with an infected person.
Respiratory secretions containing the virus are most likely to be the most important means of transmission; these are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, in the same way colds spread.
There are 2 main routes by which people can spread COVID-19:

  • infection can be spread to people who are nearby (within 2 metres) or possibly could be inhaled into the lungs;
  • it is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching door knob or shaking hands then touching own face). The current understanding is that the virus doesn’t survive on surfaces for longer than 72 hours.

How long the virus can survive

How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors, for example:

  • what surface the virus is on;
  • whether it is exposed to sunlight;
  • differences in temperature and humidity;
  • exposure to cleaning products.

Under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 72 hours.

Regular cleaning of frequently-touched hard surfaces and hands will therefore help to reduce the risk of infection.

Preventing the spread of infection

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

There are general principles anyone can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  1. washing hands often – with soap and water or use alcohol sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if handwashing facilities are not available – this is particularly important after taking public transport.
  2. covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin.
  3. people who feel unwell should stay at home and should not attend work
  4. employees should wash their hands:
    • before leaving home
    • on arrival at work
    • after using the toilet
    • after breaks and sporting activities
    • before food preparation
    • before eating any food, including snacks
    • before leaving work
    • on arrival at home
  5. avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  6. clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

How to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus (social distancing)

Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading.

It is particularly important for people who:

  • are 70 or over
  • have a long-term condition
  • are pregnant
  • have a weakened immune system


  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of coronavirus
  • only travel on public transport if you need to
  • work from home, if you can
  • avoid social activities, such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas
  • avoid events with large groups of people
  • use phone or apps to contact your doctor/GP surgery or other Government medical services.


  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • do not have visitors to your home, including friends and family


It’s important for people experiencing symptoms to stay at home to stop Coronavirus spreading;

  1. someone with symptoms should stay at home for 7 days;
  2. if someone lives with other people, everyone should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms;
  3. people living with someone who is 70 or older, has a long-term medical condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, alternative accommodation should be found for them to stay for 14 days.

People living together with symptoms should try to keep their distance from each other as far as is practicable.

  1. try to keep at least 2 metres (3 steps) from other people within the home, particularly people aged over 70, or those with long-term health conditions;
  2. ask friends, family and delivery services to deliver things like food shopping and medicines but leave them outside;
  3. sleep alone, if possible;
  4. regularly wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds;
  5. drink plenty of water and take everyday painkillers, such as paracetamol but not ibuprofen, to help with symptoms.


  1. After 7 days, if a person no longer has a high temperature they can return to their normal routine.
  2. If a person still has a high temperature, they should stay at home until their temperature returns to normal.
  3. If a person still has a cough after 7 days, but their temperature is normal, they do not need to continue staying at home.
    A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.


  1. ISOLATION The faithful experiencing any of the above symptoms necessitating their social isolation i.e. staying at home and staying away from church, should ensure their pastor is made aware of their situation.
  2. INFORM Parishioners should inform the pastor whenever they become cognisant of the fact that another member of the church is self-isolating and unable to attend church.
  3. STAYING IN TOUCH Where several members of a parish live in close proximity within a neighbourhood, a system of “street wardens” might be implemented i.e. a nominated individual taking responsibility for a particular street to monitor and be a point of contact between church members and the pastor, informing him whenever a member becomes sick. Remember that close physical contact must be avoided. Communication by mobile, phone or email should be employed.
  4. PRACTICAL SUPPORT “Street wardens” may also assist coordinating shopping for and deliveries to isolating church members and others in the community; orders should be taken remotely (see “staying in touch”) and deliveries should be left at the door.
  5. COMMUNICATION Pastors should make every effort to maintain regular personal contact with self-isolating parishioners e.g. by phone or other electronic communication and ensure he is kept informed about the developing condition of the parishioner, whether positive or negative. Social isolation can impact people’s mental health, try to ensure that nobody is forgotten!
  6. MONITORING It would be useful for a diary to be kept either by the pastor or by the church/parish secretary noting when parishioners became self-isolating in order to calculate by date when they are expected to recover and may be able to be checked up on or even visited in person.
  7. APOSTOLATE A team of volunteers to help fetch and deliver shopping for isolated parishioners should be considered a priority by other able members of the church community.


Be not afraid; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Isaiah 41:10

Every effort must be taken to ensure that the Sacraments are available and accessible as far as is reasonably practical without compromising anyone’s health and within the parameters of the law and guidance from Governments. The following suggestions should be weighed and applied in complimentary fashion to the directives of the appropriate authorities in any given place at any given time.


Pastors, and those who collaborate with them in various supporting ministries, should consider at all times the practical implications of administering the Sacraments in the present pandemic. Every effort should be made to ensure the health and well-being of all who administer and receive the Sacraments, everyone should check the application of the following suggestions leaving nothing to chance.

Essentially the best approach to adopt is to imagine you are infected and do not want to infect anyone else.


The following should be implemented in all churches and places of worship or parish activities:

  1. Metal door handles and surfaces should be regularly washed with hot water and detergent soap and if possible, wiped down periodically with sanitised wipes.
  2. Pews or chairs should be regularly washed with hot water and detergent soap and if possible, wiped down periodically with sanitised wipes.
  3. Lecterns, pulpits, credence tables and altars, should be regularly washed with hot water and detergent soap.
  4. If at all possible, facilitating the washing of hands for worship attendees before a service should be considered, e.g. bowls of warm water and soap detergent might be conveniently placed near the entrance, if washing room facilities are not available. Likewise sanitiser gel might be made available for people to use. Material towels however should not be used, only disposable paper towels.
  5. Holy Water stoups should be empty, but priests might consider sprinkling holy water over the faithful before Mass begins as a form of ritual cleansing akin to the Asperges on Sundays and as a reminder to all of their baptism.


  1. Upon entering the sacristy everyone should wash their hands with warm water and a detergent soap AND must do so before touching anything in the sacristy. Nobody should touch their face.
  2. If running hot water is not available, water should be boiled and left to cool to a reasonable temperature for hand washing with detergent soap.
  3. Tissues are to be preferred rather than handkerchiefs for catching droplets from any coughing or sneezing and should be disposed of immediately into a lidded rubbish container; this should be carefully and regularly emptied.
  4. Immediately after coughing or sneezing a person should wash their hands again thoroughly with warm water and detergent soap.
  5. Any item touched by unclean or unsanitized hands must not be used until it has been washed with hot water and detergent soap, sanitised or laundered.
  6. All liturgical items should be washed regularly with hot water and soap, the following is not exclusionary of other items not listed;
    • Consecrated vessels e.g. paten, chalice, ciborium after every Mass
    • Cruets for wine, water and lavabo after every Mass
    • Sanctuary bells after every Mass
    • The poles of the processional cross and acolytes’ torches, before and after use
    • Missal stand wiped down with hot soapy water after every Mass
    • The aspergillum used on Sundays and other occasions should likewise be washed with hot soapy water after the liturgy.
  7. Altar linen should be used once only and immediately after every Mass soaked in hot soapy water before being laundered;
    • Corporal
    • Purificator
    • Pall
    • Lavabo towel
  8. Wash all laundry at the highest temperature compatible for the fabric using laundry detergent. This should be above 60 degrees C. If possible tumble dry and iron using the highest setting compatible with the fabric.
  9. Priests should have an Alb and amice for their personal use and have these regularly soaked and laundered as above. Consideration should be given to using two or three of each in rotation.
  10. Vestments that can be laundered easily should be as often as possible; antique vestments or vestments not easily laundered should be worn sparingly or by the same priest only.
  11. Consideration with regard to availability should also be given to sanitiser gel being used by the celebrant at the Offertory after the lavabo for the purposes of giving Holy Communion safely (see “Concerning the Mass”).
  12. A supply of Holy Water should be maintained for the faithful to draw from and take away in receptacles for use at home.


“And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and Be not afraid.”

Matthew 17:7

The offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, as the ultimate form of worship it is possible for the Church Militant united in Christ to offer almighty God, should if at all possible, continue to be offered publicly as Government directives allow and regularly if not daily by all Old Roman priests whether publicly or privately.

Certain other churches and ecclesial communities have issued blanket bans closing their temples and suspending their services; this should be avoided and only conceded to by Old Roman missions and parishes when legitimate authorities request it for the common good. Otherwise, every effort should be employed to keep our churches open as sacred spaces for people to pray in and the following considerations be given to allow the public worship of God to continue.

  1. Public Masses where public gatherings and Holy Communion are considered safe to occur, are to be offered until such time as Government guidance or directives change.
  2. Additional Masses may be considered necessary on Sundays and feasts when Governments put restrictions on the number of people at public gatherings to spread out and stagger the number of attendees.
  3. House Masses, i.e. Masses offered in homes for families or small groups of people should likewise be considered if Government directives prevent the use of churches for public gatherings.
  4. Private Masses should absolutely be offered by Old Roman priests when Governments impose curfews, ban public gatherings outright or they themselves are required to self-isolate for their health or that of a dependent or other person sharing their home.
  5. Hand sanitising should of course be observed vigorously as mentioned previously, the priest washing his hands before vesting for Mass and sanitiser gel may be used by the priest to disinfect his hands before the distribution of the Holy Communion in one kind.
  6. Spiritual Communion as a last resort if Masses cannot be offered at all, the faithful should be encouraged to make virtual visits to the Blessed Sacrament within their home or to watch a live-streaming of the traditional Mass online, or at the very least a video/audio recording of the Mass of the day or Sunday.


“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Joshua 1:9

The following are suggestions for when pastors make home visits whether to the non-infected i.e. those suffering some other illness or infirmity while the pandemic is ongoing; or those exhibiting mild Coronavirus symptoms and self-isolating but haven’t yet been formally diagnosed; or those who have tested negatively for Coronavirus but are still within the 14 day isolation period; or for any other appreciable reason a person may desire the ministrations of a priest.

COVID-19 spreads through close sustained contact with someone who has the virus (for instance being within 2 metres of someone for longer than 15 minutes). It is recommended that pastoral visits be restricted to no more than fifteen minutes and that the Rite of any Sacrament used be the most expedient form given in the Rituale.

It is assumed that severely infected Coronavirus patients would be quarantined and hospitalised, likely unable to receive the ministrations of a priest. However, subject to the institution’s own requirements ref access and protective clothing etc, the following guidance would be transferable to a hospital environment if e.g. Emergency Baptism or Viaticum was requested and thought practicable. This might also be applicable to nursing homes and hospices.

Prudence must be exercised in determining whether the pastor’s own health may be threatened or jeopardised, or whether that of the person he is visiting may be worsened. Obviously, priests with existing weak immune systems and respiratory conditions e.g. asthma, should not visit anyone with even mild Coronavirus symptoms.

Direct physical contact e.g. laying on of hands, with any patient i.e. whether possibly or certainly Coronavirus infected or not, is to be avoided.

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”

Luke 12:4


The following guidance on celebrating the following Sacraments is based on the presumption that the Coronavirus contagion is widespread. The guidance presupposes an understanding that the infection status of individuals may be uncertain, based on the advice given above concerning the 14 day period for symptoms to present themselves after infection.

With this in mind, it is recommended that if the following Sacraments must be celebrated at all, they should be understood to be administered in extremis (in danger of death) whether a terminal prognosis has been given or not; as the likelihood of being able to minister to the infected quarantined or hospitalised should a prognosis become terminal, is extremely low; and because a person may be taken into isolation or quarantine without much notice.

Priests should aim to administer these Sacraments…

  1. within 15 (fifteen) minutes, and
  2. without skin-to-skin contact, and
  3. maintaining a distance of 2m (two metres) between themselves and the infirm person until the Rituale requires proximity, which moment should be kept as brief as possible.

The following should always be prepared:

  1. Warm water, detergent soap and disposable towels should be arranged for the priest to wash and dry his hands as soon as he enters the premises and before he leaves.
  2. A disposable seat cover e.g. newspaper or paper towel – enough to cover the seat of a chair for the priest, which cover should be disposed of after the visit is concluded.


  1. During the contagion it is recommended the sacrament be administered baptismus clinicorum and in the shorter form contained in the Rituale given for in extremis (in danger of death); irrespective of whether the person – infant or adult, is in fact in danger of death.
  2. In danger of death non-solemn baptism can be administered by anyone as long as he uses the proper form and matter and has the right intention.
  3. If possible, two witnesses or at least one should be present so that the baptism can be proved.
  4. A priest if available should be preferred to a deacon, a deacon to a subdeacon, a cleric to a laic, a man to a woman, unless for the sake of modesty it is more fitting that the woman baptise rather than the man, or because the woman might know the form and method better than the man.
  5. Father or mother are not permitted to baptise their child, except when in danger of death no one else can be had who could baptise.
  6. When private baptism is conferred by a priest or by a deacon, the ceremonies which would normally follow the act of baptising should be added later in church as soon as possible post-contagion.

Short form Baptism

Si non habeatur aqua baptismalis et periculum impendeat, Sacerdos utens aqua simplici ter vel etiam semel infundat aquam auper caput baptizandi in modum crucis dicens:
N., Ego te baptízo in nomine Pa + tris, et Fí + lii, et Spíritus + Sancti. Amen

If baptismal water is not at hand and danger of death is imminent; the priest using plain water may baptise making the sign of the cross either with one single pouring or three pourings on the forehead, saying:
N., I baptise thee in the name of the Fat+her, and of the S+on, and of the Holy + Spirit. Amen

Si Sacerdos dubitet an infirmus adhuc vivat, dicat:
Si vivis, ego te baptízo in nómine Pa + tris, et Fí + lii, et Spíritus + Sancti. Amen

If the priest is unsure that the infirm is still alive:
If living, (N.,) I baptise thee in the name of the Fat+her, and of the S+on, and of the Holy + Spirit. Amen


  1. The penitent should prepare themselves by making an examination of conscience well in advance of the appointment in order to make their Confession expediently within the 15 minutes (max) the priest is able to be near them.
  2. It is recommended that the Sacrament not be celebrated in the usual close confines of the Confessional box; instead two chairs with disposable covers should be placed at least three paces (two metres) apart from each other; this distance and arrangement should be observed wherever the sacrament is celebrated e.g. outside, in church, in a room or in a hospital.
  3. The priest should ensure to protect the seal of the sacrament that nobody else other than the penitent can hear his or the penitent’s words.; if another person, e.g. a nurse, must remain present, the priest should swear them to observe the seal of the Confession [cf CIC1917/Can.889 §1 & §2]

Short form sacramental absolution

Ego te absólvo ab ómnibus censúris et peccátis, in nómine Patris, et Fílii,+ et Spíritus Sancti . Amen.
I absolve thee from all censures and sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


  1. For the administration of Holy Communion, a Crucifix and two candles should be placed on a wipeable surface for the corporal and the Pyx to rest upon in the usual way.
  2. Administering Holy Communion whether the infection status of a person is known or not, the consecrated Host should be administered on the tongue and care should be taken to avoid any and all contact with the patient’s skin, mouth, tongue or saliva; if contact occurs the priest should wash his hands immediately with hot soapy water or sanitiser.
  3. It is not recommended but if the patient or a nursing professional is insistent, the Host may be placed directly onto the palm of the patient’s hand – again carefully avoiding all skin-contact between the priest and the patient, in order for the patient to communicate him/herself. In which case the priest should remain long enough to ensure that he witnesses the Host is consumed by the patient.
  4. The pyx should be washed directly with hot soapy water and the corporal put into soak for laundering when the priest returns to the church/chapel.

Short form for administering Viaticum

Accipe, frater (sorror), Viáticum Córporis Dómini nostri Jesu Christi, qui te custódiat ab hoste malígno et perdúcat in vitam ætérnam. Amen.
Receive, brother (sister), the Viaticum of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ; and may He keep you from the malignant foe, and bring you to life everlasting. Amen.


  1. The priest must not use his bare hands to anoint the patient.
  2. For the anointing with holy oil, the priest may use a cotton-bud or some other disposable instrument to apply the holy oil to the patient’s forehead avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact.
  3. It is not recommended to anoint the other customary places of the body/senses, but to use the shorter formula for a single anointing [cf CIC 1917 Canon 947 §1 & §4].
  4. The cotton bud or other disposable instrument used for the anointing should afterwards be immediately placed into a plastic bag and later conveniently burned (it may be disposed of in a bio-hazard bin for incineration).

Short form for Extreme Unction

Per istam sanctam Unctió + nem indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid deliquísti. Amen.
Through this holy unction may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed.

Si Sacerdos dubitet an infirmus adhuc vivat, dicat:
Si vivis, per istam sanctam Unctió + nem indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid deliquísti. Amen.
If the priest is uncertain the infirm are still alive:
If living, through this holy unction may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed.


  1. The sacrament may be celebrated with only the priest, bride, groom and two witnesses present.
  2. During the contagion a Nuptial Mass is not recommended; but the priest may offer a private Mass for the intentions of the couple.
  3. Using the rite in the Rituale with the minimum ceremonial necessary, it is possible to complete the ceremony reverently within fifteen minutes.
  4. The priest may vest simply in cassock, surplice and white stole.
  5. If desired, a Nuptial Mass with a renewal of the Wedding Vows may be arranged for a later date when the contagion has abated.

“He will never leave you nor forsake you. Be not afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8


  1. If there are no Government restrictions on public gatherings, prudence should be used to reduce the prospect of infection by keeping numbers of mourners low at Requiems and Funeral Masses e.g. restricting mourners to family and close friends only.
    1. Consideration should be given to social distancing between mourners and the above advice about washing hands etc of course applies ref accessing churches etc.
    2. Likewise, graveside burials and cremations might be contained ref the number of mourners and social distancing.
  2. Where Government restrictions prevent public gatherings;
    1. Graveside and cremation liturgies may have to be reduced in attendance to the priest alone.
    2. Requiem Masses will have to be offered privately by the priest;
    3. Memorial Masses may of course be offered post-contagion.


The information contained in this Policy was accurate at the time of publishing; any changes will be updated and published on this website.

Ultimately the priest and indeed the bishop have responsibility for ministering to the faithful entrusted to their charge. This Policy is offered as suggested guidance only and not as a directive.

It would seem useful for priests to commit to memory the short formulas for administration of the pastoral sacraments for expediency and convenience and to keep on their person at all times the Rituale, Oleo Infirmorum and a Pastoral Stole.

WHO World Health Organisation
NHS National Health Service (UK)
PHE Public Health England
“Pastoral care of patients with Ebola Virus Disease: A medical and canonical opinion about pastoral visits to patients with contagious and highly fatal diseases” by Stephen E. Hannan & Benedict T. Nguyen

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