Sacred rites and public health

Catholics asked to hold off on holy water, communion wine, handshaking

In American dioceses close to Mexico, swine flu is having an effect on Catholic ritual. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is stressing increased attention across the nation to hygiene and urging priests and others who distribute Communion to wash their hands with anti-bacterial solutions before mass, while in Texas Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin—where 26 cases of swine flu infection have been confirmed—has asked priests not to offer Communion wine at mass “until more is known about the virus.” Aymond also said that holy water from church entrances should be disposed of and the containers washed and disinfected before being refilled. Some Catholics are also asking parishioners not to shake hands during mass. A Dallas official said that “members of our congregations should not be offended at this time if someone chooses not to shake the other person’s hand at the sign of peace.”

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

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