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Instructions to rectors of parishes and metochions, abbots & abbesses of monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with the threat of spreading the coronavirus infection

The document was approved by the decision of the Holy Synod of March 17, 2020 (Journal № 30)

For the sake of pastoral care of individuals, as well as in response to the request of the sanitary authorities, while maintaining strong faith in God's Good Providence and in Divine Omnipotence, the following rules are adopted, taking into account the canonical and liturgical Traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Up until the epidemiological situation improves and appropriate instructions from diocesan administration on the full or partial termination of these instructions are received, the following regulations must be abided in parish churches, Patriarchal Parishes, Hierarchal & monastic metochions, as well as in diocesan monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Concerning the Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ

  1. Bearing in mind that the offering of the Bloodless Sacrifice should never be cancelled in any case, because where there is no Eucharist, there is no Church life, and also that the Holy Body and Blood of Christ are partaken for the health of both soul and body (see, for example, the prayers of St. John Chrysostom, the 7th and 9th of the prayers before Holy Communion), taking into account, however, the historical practice of the Orthodox Church in the conditions of epidemics[1]— to distribute the Holy Mysteries of Christ and wipe the spoon with an alcohol-soaked cloth after each communicant (with regular changing of the solution) and then dipping it in water (with subsequent disposal of water according to the practice when washing the Communion Cloths).
  2. Zapivka shall be prepared individually for each communicant in a disposable cup.
  3. Disposable sanitary gloves should be used to distribute the antidoron.
  4. Use the Communion Cloths for the Communion of the laity only to protect the Holy Mysteries from possibly falling on the floor and for wiping the Spoon. Paper napkins should be used to wipe the mouths of each communicant and should be subsequently burned. The Communion Cloths should be boiled and washed with due reverence after each liturgical use.
  5. Communicants should refrain from kissing the Chalice.

Concerning the serving of the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation

  1. Strictly adhere to the practice of changing and blessing water for each individual case. In this regard, the Sacrament of Baptism is to be performed only individually with intermediate disinfection (wiping) of the font (baptistery) with disinfectant liquid (the list of recommended liquids is attached).
  2. For Holy Unction, as well as the anointing with oil, use a cotton swab (instead of a brush) and a paper napkin (instead of a sponge) followed by burning.

Concerning the serving of the Sacrament of Holy Unction

  1. While serving “mass Holy Unction”, that is, the anointing of the sick in the churches, use a disposable brush (for example, cotton swabs), followed by burning for each parishioner individually.

Other instructions regarding the performance of services, pastoral practice, and parish life

  1. Instead of presenting the Cross for veneration at the end of the Divine Liturgy and other services, it is recommended to place the Cross on the heads of parishioners.
  2. Returning to the practice prescribed by the rubrics, which has undergone change in recent years, anointing at the All-Night Vigil is appointed only in cases when the Litiya and the blessing of oil are served. When the anointing is appropriate, use a single-use brush (for example, a cotton swab) for each parishioner separately with subsequent disposal. In all other cases, venerate the Holy Gospel or feastal icon (or Cross) after the polyeleos and receive a blessing by the priest. Wipe the Gospel and the icon (or Cross) after each individual using a disinfectant solution.
  3. Clergy are advised to refrain from offering their hands for kissing.
  4. Use disposable gloves to distribute the prosphora and the blessed bread at the All-Night Vigil.
  5. Pay special attention to the cleanliness of items and liturgical vessels, sanitizing them after each liturgical use and thoroughly washing them with boiling water.
  6. Suspend the work of Sunday schools, as well as parish groups and organizations, until further notice.
  7. If possible, the social services of parishes, monasteries and metochions should help elderly parishioners at risk to deliver food and essential goods to their homes.

General Instructions

  1. Rectors, Abbots & Abbesses should instruct parish, monastery and metochion staff to strictly observe general hygiene measures, including hand disinfection during the day (at least once every 2 hours).
  2. Provide frequent airing of churches, as well as public buildings on parish and monastery complexes, setting a mandatory schedule for airing.
  3. Regularly disinfect the surfaces of common touched areas (including places for writing commemorations, candle desks, etc.), as well as door handles.
  4. Regularly disinfect icons in the church that parishioners regularly venerate.
  5. Clergymen and parish, monastery and metochion staff should be responsible and attentive to their well-being. If one feels unwell, immediately inform the Rector and seek medical help.
  6. Rectors and Abbots & Abbesses are required to measure the temperature before the start of the working day (for example, using a non-contact thermometer) for priests, clergy, and church staff who interact with a large number of parishioners.
  7. Explain to parishioners that the implementation of the imposed regulations and restrictions should be perceived as following the words of the Holy Scripture:" Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." (Matt. 4:7). Also explain to the parishioners that in case of symptoms of the flu or other infectious diseases, they should refrain from visiting churches for the sake of love for their neighbors and care for them.

Addendum

The following solutions are recommended for sanitary treatment:

  • products based on tertiary amides (for example, Evoline-4D);
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide;
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol (for example, Septolite antiseptic);
  • 75% ethyl alcohol;
  • chlorine-containing preparations (for cleaning rooms).

Press Service of Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia

[1] in particular: Communion of patients with infectious diseases after other communicants (or even at a separate service) with wiping after each communicant with a cloth and then burning it; the use of a separate Chalice and the Spoon for patients; washing them in vinegar and pouring it into a dry well (see S. V. Bulgakov. Handbook for Church Servers; Pidalion with the interpretations of the monk Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain - on rule VI.28).

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Published with the blessing of His Grace Matthew
Bishop of Sourozh
Interim Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA & Canada

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