Fear of flu reaches into Catholic rituals


POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

Concern about the spread of flu virus has led island Catholic parishes to make changes in the daily Mass service.

Some island churches have dispensed with offering Communion wine, which attendees traditionally sip from common cups. Communicants still receive Communion wafers in the central act of worship in the Mass.

The decision by some pastors goes beyond an advisory memorandum sent Wednesday in which the diocesan headquarters “;strongly suggested”; that Catholic schools stop offering the cup at Mass but said it is still permitted in parishes.

“;People who are feeling ill must not partake of the cup,”; said the memo, which will be posted in parish bulletins and newsletters.

“;We don't want to overreact, but we thought it would be prudent to stop it in schools,”; said the Rev. Marc Alexander, diocesan vicar general.

The memo also urged that worshippers change their pattern in two interactive parts of the service, holding hands during recitation of the Lord's Prayer and exchanging handshakes and hugs during the “;sign of peace.”; It suggests that “;If someone is not feeling well, they should exchange the sign of peace by a bow.”;

St. John the Baptist Church in Kalihi suspended use of the cups effective yesterday, said parish secretary Bertha Guerrero.

Suspending the Communion cup is still under discussion at the Waikiki parish.

The Rev. Clarence Guerrero ordered “;no cups until further notice”; at St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki.

News reports from the mainland describe similar precautions in Catholic and other Christian churches.