VATICAN CITY—Stressing that ensuring the safety of all clergy members remained the Holy See’s primary concern, Pope Francis issued a statement Monday urging priests worldwide to refrain from molesting children over escalating coronavirus fears. “During this trying period, we are recommending all priests do their part to stem the spread of this deadly virus by temporarily ceasing all fondling of children in their congregations,” said the supreme pontiff, acknowledging that the announcement represented a severe measure but one justified by the increased susceptibility to the virus shown by elderly priests, deacons, and bishops who engage in pedophilia with infected boys or girls. “In the event a priest feels compelled to molest a child, we’re recommending they wear a face mask and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water both before and after. Of course, we understand this is an urgent concern and hope to have it sorted out within the month.” Francis also cautioned priests against succumbing to the natural impulse to touch an altar boy’s face or mouth every few minutes.
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