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Archdiocese of Baltimore orders clergy to suspend sign of peace, consecrated wine during services due to coronavirus

The Archdiocese of Baltimore on Tuesday ordered clergy to suspend the sign of peace and stop serving consecrated wine during Mass amid growing concerns about coronavirus.

Archbishop William E. Lori said that instead of shaking hands during the sign of peace, parishioners can bow to their neighbor and say, “Peace be with you.”

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The consecrated wine, which many people sip from, will not be offered, the news release said. Hosts will still be given out during Communion and individuals can receive them in their hands instead of their being placed on their tongue. Those administering communion will use hand sanitizer before distributing the hosts, Lori said.

The archdiocese’s announcement comes just one day after the leader of the Episcopal Church issued similar orders. The archbishop said he also sent a similar letter to administrators of Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic schools.

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“We are closely monitoring all coronavirus information and recommendations and will modify our response in compliance with the directives provided by the various health authorities and experts, should circumstances warrant it,” Lori said to the clergy.

Lori urged those who are sick with contagious ailments to stay home and emphasized that “missing Mass because of an illness is not a sin.” Recorded services are available via radio, television and online.

Each pastor can decide whether holy water fonts will stay filled, Lori said, but if they do not remain empty, each font should be drained, cleaned, sanitized and refilled regularly.

Areas that are frequently touched, such as the tops of pews, are going to be disinfected more frequently, Lori said, as maintenance workers step up their efforts.

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As three more deaths in the United States were linked to the coronavirus Tuesday, World Health Organization officials warned the virus could be far more dangerous than the flu, with a mortality rate of 3.4%.

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