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'Don't kiss holy carvings': European churches fight to contain coronavirus outbreak

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By Euronews
Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP
Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP   -   Copyright  HANDOUT/AFP or licensors

Measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus have led churches across Europe to take steps to avoid contagion.

In the Greek orthodox church, Holy Communion is administered by a shared spoon for everyone.  However, despite concerns over surface contagion, the nation's Holy Synod announced that it would continue to conduct the sacrament.

Diseases cannot be transmitted by the "shared cup of life", a statement from the nation's Holy Synod read on Monday.

On Sunday, the Holy Synod addressed a prayer against COVID-19 and urged the flock to follow guidelines provided by the Greek ministry of health. Churches also handed out information leaflets.  

The Church urged believers to abide by the hygiene rules suggested by experts and recommended that vulnerable groups avoid leaving their home if it is not absolutely necessary. It also asked that those who exhibit symptoms do not congregate in places where there are other people. But they still kept the shared spoon. 

"We are following only official updates and what scientists are recommending to us", the statement from the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece read. "Let us all intensify our prayers."

The church also announced that all lessons at religious schools would stop until further notice.

In Italy, the Pope livestreams mass

In Italy, amid the national shutdown, all church activities are called off. No masses, funerals or weddings can be organised until the 3 April.

The Pope livestreamed his last Angelus and on Tuesday celebrated a daily mass alone in the Santa Marta chapel at the Vatican, as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new virus.

He has also urged priests to go out and meet the sick, despite Italy being on national lockdown and advice being given on keeping your distance from people. 

The Vatican announced that the Basilica and St Peter's square are closed to tourists until 3 April.

Spanish ban on touching holy carvings

Spain has not restricted access to churches like Italy has done, but churches are taking measures ahead of the Easter celebrations to avoid virus contagion.

The Spanish Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has banned visitors from embracing the sculpture of the Apostle.

Unlike the Greek authorities, the cathedral has also removed the holy water, and the Archbishopric of Madrid has asked the faithful to refrain from kissing the carvings.

The diocese of Cartagena-Murcia, in southeastern Spain, has asked the faithful to avoid gestures that could pose a risk for the spread of the disease when they venerate the images.

They also recommended suppressing the handshake of peace during the masses and receiving the Communion, preferably, in the hand, not the mouth.