Some parishes change Mass practices to prevent spread of swine flu

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As the number of swine influenza cases increases around the world, some U.S. bishops are suggesting ways that pastors can alter certain practices within the celebration of Mass in an effort to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The swine flu is transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes around others. It can also be spread when a person touches a surface contaminated with the virus and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Parishes in the Diocese of Austin, Texas, are not to “offer the blood of Christ at Eucharist until more is known about the virus,” according to a letter from Bishop Gregory M. Aymond. “It seems that having the public drink from the chalice may be an unnecessary risk,” Bishop Aymond said. Bishop Aymond further instructed ministers of Communion to always have clean hands when handling and distributing the Eucharist.

In the Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell also asked pastors to “consider suspending in your parish the reception of the holy Eucharist under both species.” In the letter, Bishop Farrell reminded pastors and ministers of holy Communion to maintain proper hygiene when handling the Eucharist.

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