‘We need advice’: Church of England urged to change Holy Communion over coronavirus fears

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Mary Durlacher raises coronavirus concerns at the General Synod meeting (Church of England/YouTube)

The Church of England has been urged to introduce measures to stop the spread of coronavirus at its services.

The General Synod, the church’s legislative body, was warned to issue specific safety guidance before it is too late.

Coronavirus, which was named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation on Tuesday, has a worldwide death toll of more than 1,000.

There have been no deaths in the UK, though eight people have tested positive.

The issue found its way onto the agenda of the General Synod assembly, with Mary Durlacher, of the Chelmsford Diocese, calling for measures such as “use of a single cup in administering wine in the service of Holy Communion”.

She said: “It has now been declared a major emergency and in the interests of not having to get that phrase ‘lessons will be learned’, we really do need to get some advice in what to do should it really become a frightening and effecting situation.”

But responding to this at the meeting on Monday, the Bishop of Carlisle said specific Church of England advice would only be provided if the situation escalated further.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely,” he said. “We are taking advice from the relevant medical authorities. We have got advice which can be issued.

The Bishop of Carlisle said 'we are monitoring the situation very closely' (Church of England/YouTube)

“People will probably remember the advice that came out back in 2009, where it was possible for the sharing of the chalice to be suspended or holy communion to be received in only one kind. There was a notice for all churches about proper hygiene that was to be put up in all churches.

‘If the situation continues to get worse, that sort of thing will certainly be issued.”

He went on: “I think one of the key things in all of this is common sense and hand washing, just as in hospitals, because that is the main thing that prevents the disease spreading.

“But we are looking at the possibility of extreme circumstances and if there is a real danger, the legal advisory commission has said that good sense could mediate the necessity for a priest to celebrate Holy Communion on Sundays and major feast days. I sincerely hope we won’t be in that position.”

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On Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said the risk of coronavirus to the public “remains moderate” but that the spread “will get worse before it gets better”.

He announced new capital funding for the NHS if they need to create “further isolation areas and other necessary facilities”.

Matt Hancock on coronavirus: The situation will get worse before it gets better