Archbishop Makes 5 Suggestions For Swine Flu and Worship

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Archbishop of Baltimore Edwin O'Brien writes that It is not sinful to miss Mass if you are sick and unable to attend; it is an act of charity. He makes 5 suggestions to his clergy about steps that can be taken this Sunday during Mass as a precaution against swine flu.

He writes in a letter released yesterday.

1. In light of the ways in which the influenza virus is transmitted, consider offering Communion only under the form of the consecrated host and only in the hand.

2. Consider suspending personal contact during the sign of peace, the Our Father, and any prescribed greeting taking place before, during or after Mass.

3. Make sure all ministers of Communion, ordinary and extraordinary, sanitize their hands before and after distributing Communion. Alcohol-based sanitizers should be made available.

4. Prior to this coming weekend's liturgies, consider appropriately disposing of holy water near church entrances and washing, drying and spraying with disinfectant the containers prior to refilling them.

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5. Consider announcing the following at Mass: "If you have any symptoms of the flu or severe cold, please remain at home. It is not sinful to miss Mass if you are sick and unable to attend; it is an act of charity."

Below is the section addressing the Swine Flu and the church worship and religious life from the Q&A taken from the website of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In previous years, what has the Church done in localities where the outbreak of Influenza is most significant?

In those localities where the outbreak of the disease has been the most significant, bishops have introduced several liturgical adaptations in regard to such practices as the distribution of Holy Communion and the exchange of the Sign of Peace in order to limit the spread of contagion.

What measures should be taken in Roman Catholic liturgies in the United States of America now?

Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be especially reminded of the need to practice good hygiene. Ministers of Holy Communion should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins, or even to use an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion. They should instruct people who feel ill not to receive from the cup.

What about further adaptations or the restriction of options at Mass?

The Diocesan Bishop should always be consulted regarding any changes or restriction of options in the celebration of Roman Catholic Liturgy. However, the need for the introduction of widespread liturgical adaptations for the prevention of the transmission of influenza in the dioceses of the United States of America is not evident at this time.

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