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    Monday, November 29, 2004

    Public Health Sundays: Catholic churches in Massachussetts are advising parishioners to forego parts of the mass to avoid the flu:

    Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Boston and Springfield issued advisories to parishioners in recent weeks telling them that if they have the flu or a cold, they should forgo a handshake of fellowship as well as sipping from the Communion cup during Mass.

    Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield went even further, suggesting that parishioners who are sick for any reason ''can excuse themselves from Sunday worship out of respect for their fellow worshipers."

    ...As a sign of fellowship and peace, Catholics routinely exchange a handshake during Mass, and Communion consists of both a wafer and wine sipped from a chalice. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has periodically issued recommendations on how to prevent disease transmission, urging the ill to avoid drinking from the Communion cup if they fear they could spread illness to other worshipers. But the latest guidance from the Massachusetts dioceses reflects the increased level of concern this flu season.

    While in Vermont, the Church went even further, instructing priests to
    retire the chalice and the handshake:

    The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington is the only one in the country that has formally asked priests to refrain from using the communion chalice and parishioners to avoid the usual handshake, hug or kiss when they make the sign of peace during Mass until the end of flu season, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says.

    ..."The bishop didn't want to make people feel out of place if they did not want to offer their hand. And we're concerned that if a good flu epidemic is going, it would be very hard to deal with," said Gloria Gibson, director of communications for the diocese. "I think a lot of people are afraid of the cup and holding hands for prayer or shaking for the sign of peace because people are in there sneezing."

    I know a woman who refuses to shake the hand of anyone near her who has sneezed or coughed or blown their nose during the mass, and she tells them exactly why, too. She also, needless to say, never drinks from the chalice.

    posted by Sydney on 11/29/2004 07:40:00 AM 0 comments


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