SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – In response to a bad flu season, some Catholic churches in the country have temporarily suspended the practice of communion (sharing bread and wine) and shaking hands during the Exchange of Peace.
The Diocese of Buffalo in New York is one example. This prompted church officials at the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City to decide whether they should issue a directive to their parishes to do the same.
After a meeting Tuesday morning, the Diocese decided to leave it up to each pastor to determine what is in the best interest of their parish.
Father Anastasius Iwuoha said during his 11 years in Utah, he’s only recalled one season where the flu was bad enough for the Diocese here to take action.
“When that flu came that year, the directive was to not give a handshake and then people would be bowing during mass ,” said Father Anastasius.
He said the flu outbreak has to be really bad in order for the Diocese to suspend these practices.
“That’s a very powerful part of the mass. The handshake is not just an ordinary handshake. It is an expression of what we do at mass. We are a communion of love,” said Father Anastasius.
This flu season could be getting there as far as severity. He said the flu has taken a toll on his parishioners. Even he himself caught the bug this winter.
“Usually the priest receives communion before the other people. But when I had symptoms, I gave communion to people first before I took the cup so I don’t give the bug to them,” said Father Anastasius.
As a precaution, he says he has his parishioners sanitize their hands before receiving communion.
“Because of the severity of the flu this year, we add to that. That’s why we have planned to put hand sanitizer in every corner of the church,” said Father Anastasius.
Bishop Solis will send out a letter to Catholic churches in the state this week to notify them of their decision.