Washington Area Dioceses Urge Changes During Services to Prevent Flu's Spread

With officials watching 17 confirmed cases and more than 60 "possible" cases, the D.C. region feels the effects of the swine flu. Officials ask residents to take necessary precautions, such as hand washing and avoiding heavily congested areas, to help contain the virus.
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Worshipers attending religious services this weekend might encounter special measures being taken to help protect against the spread of the swine flu virus.

The Arlington diocese and the Baltimore archdiocese are recommending that Communion wine not be served in a common cup. The Arlington diocese also said that churches should consider suspending the "Sign of Peace," a customary handshake exchanged during the Mass, and instead substitute a bow or other gesture. The Washington archdiocese recommends that churches have hand sanitizer available for lay ministers who distribute Communion wafers and wine.

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington distributed to its churches a Canadian study that suggested that drinking from a common Communion cup was less risky than air-borne infection, although the diocese left the decision of whether to use the common cup up to individual parishes.

-- Jacqueline L. Salmon

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