The Russian Orthodox Church is introducing an unprecedented list of measures aimed at combating the spread of the coronavirus in its holy places nationwide, it said in a statement Tuesday.
The new orders, approved by Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, include new sanitary standards for general liturgy services as well as baptism, communion and other sacraments. They also outline general hygiene recommendations for churches.
Churches are advised to refrain from allowing worshippers to kiss the cross at the end of a liturgy, the document says. Instead, priests should touch the cross to the tops of worshippers' heads. Worshippers will still be able to kiss icons, the document says, but churches are ordered to disinfect the icons between each use.
According to the Church document, zapivka, the traditional communion drink of hot water mixed with wine, should be served with individual disposable spoons. Church personnel should also wear disposable gloves when serving pieces of bread to worshippers. The document adds that worshippers should refrain from kissing the communion chalice.
Water used for baptism and anointing cannot be reused and the baptismal font must be regularly disinfected, the Church said.
Church staff must also regularly sanitize their hands throughout the day, ensure proper church ventilation and regularly disinfect surfaces like cathedral furniture and door handles.
Patriarch Kirill approved the array of new sanitary guidelines after the Novaya Gazeta newspaper last week reported hundreds of worshippers in St Petersburg were kissing a relic being wiped down with a cloth despite fears over the new virus.
source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Worshippers in St Petersburg lined to kiss a holy icon at Kazan Cathedral last week, sparking criticism of procedures due to concerns about the coronavirus.
1 April 2020: Whole countries remain locked down, and an estimated three billion people all over the world self-isolate, as governments resort to drastic measures to try and control the spread of coronavirus