Flu outbreak prompts some Catholic churches to make changes to mass

Local News
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – In response to the flu outbreak sweeping the country, some Catholic Church Diocese have issued new guidelines in hopes of stopping the flu from spreading.

The Diocese of Buffalo in New York has suspended two practices during Mass: Sharing wine during Holy Communion and shaking hands as a gesture of peace during the service.

The Reverend Doherty of The Cathedral of St. Mark in Salt Lake City supports the move and says precautions like this have been taken in the past.

“We had something similar in the Diocese in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia during the swine flu epidemic,” Doherty said.

The Cathedral of St. Mark is an Episcopal Church. They have a similar mass to the Catholic Church. 

Doherty told News4Utah’s Brittany Johnson that people always wonder if it is safe to drink the wine directly from the chalice during communion, since most of the congregation shares the cup. He says drinking the wine is more sanitary than dipping the bread into the cup and then eating it. But it needs to be done correctly.

“The alcohol and the sterling silver and the wipe makes it a very sanitary process,” Doherty said. “The chalice, because it’s made from sterling silver has antimicrobial and sterilizing properties especially when combined with wine inside. Instinct would be that you have the wafer and dip it in. The trouble is, when you have kids doing this, they don’t just dip the wafer, they plunge their fist into the wine. They are basically putting their hands in the wine so it’s more sanitary to just drink it.”

If you are still concerned, Doherty says the other options are to cross your arms and receive a blessing from the Priest or just receive the bread and not drink from the chalice.

There will be a meeting Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. among the Salt Lake City Diocese where they will take a closer look at the issue. That’s when they’ll decide if mandatory changes need to be made.

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