Bishop Douglas Deshotel distributes ashes to Claire Ashy during Ash Wednesday Mass, Feb. 26, 2020, at St. John's Cathedral in Lafayette.

Lafayette Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel said Wednesday he’s asking for parishioners in the diocese’s 121 churches to pray for victims of coronavirus, their families, healthcare workers and government leaders.

Beyond prayer, though, the leader of the eight-parish diocese announced specific directives and recommendations to try to stem the spread of the contagious virus, should it come to Acadiana.

In his letter, Deshotel listed these directives:

Those who are ill — those who show respiratory symptoms and/or a fever of more than 100 degrees — should not attend Mass or other services or gatherings. Deshotel said it is not sinful to miss required Mass attendance when ill. “In fact, remaining at home under these circumstances is an act of charity,” he said.

Ministers of Holy Community must sanitize their hands before distributing the host.

Deshotel will recommend but not require that those in the Diocese receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.

Priests are to refrain from offering the chalice at Mass.

Pastors at their own judgement can omit the sign of peace, the point in the Mass where Catholics may shake hands with fellow parishioners. “When not omitted, it is appropriate to offer the sign of peace with a nod or bow of the head,” he wrote.

Deshotel also asked that parishioners not hold hands with those nearby during the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

The bishop said the directives will remain in place until the health threat passes.

“If the situation worsens,” he wrote, “further restrictions may be necessary ….” He said the diocese will remain in contact with civil authorities about the health threat.

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