Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Archdiocese tightens liturgy to prevent spread of flu
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Archdiocese has reintroduced a set of liturgical restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of H1N1 influenza.
Until further notice, the Sign of Peace will be omitted from the Mass, the Precious Blood will not be distributed at Communion and the reception and the Body of Christ will only be distributed in the hand.
Archbishop Richard Smith made the announcement Sept. 24 based on consultations with provincial health officials.
As well, the archbishop has asked that holy water fonts remain empty, sanitizing solutions and tissues be made available at church entrances, and pastoral care team members not take the Blessed Sacrament to the homes of shut-ins where influenza is known or suspected to be present.
Similar guidelines were in effect in the spring at the time when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic for the H1N1 form of influenza but were lifted over the summer.
A leading provincial health official told the WCR the archdiocese's restrictions are in line with provincial recommendations, but that some are matters that could only be decided by Church leaders.
The government's main message is that people should cover their mouth and nose when sneezing, that they wash their hands frequently and that they stay home when ill, said Dr. Marsha Johnson, deputy medical officer of health.
Recommendations of that nature "are absolutely in line with what we would like to see," Johnson said.
But the government wouldn't tell religious leaders to omit ritual acts if they were an important part of worship, she said. Only religious leaders could make that sort of decision.
Sharing from the same cup, for example, may be one way disease is transmitted, Johnson said. "But if it was an important part of your religious ceremony, we wouldn't say, 'Don't do it.'"
People should be taking precautions against spreading the flu every year as the disease annually causes severe illness and death, she said. "All influenza viruses have to be taken with a great deal of respect."
The concern with the H1N1 virus is that the vast majority of people have no immunity to it, Johnson said. The disease can be treated through normal methods and only a small proportion of people who contract it become extremely ill.
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