Archdiocese issues guidelines for Communion, peace during flu season

In response to inquiries made to the Office for Worship, the archdiocese has issued guidelines for the sign of peace and reception of Holy Communion from the cup during cold and flu season.

In a memorandum issued Nov. 8, vicar general and moderator of the curia Bishop Richard G. Lennon said that during the sign of peace, “If one does not want to shake hands during this time, a suitable gesture such as a nod of the head or a verbal gesture of peace would be gracious and fitting.”

However, he said, for those who know they are ill with a cold or flu, “it would better not shake hands but rather choose another suitable gesture.”

"As for reception of Holy Communion from the cup, common sense should reign supreme," Bishop Lennon continued.

"Communicants should be thoughtful of others during this cold and flu season. If one is sick, one should not receive from the cup," he said.

In addition, Bishop Lennon called for ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Communion who are feeling ill to refrain from distributing Communion and for all other ministers to wash their hands, if possible, before Mass.

The memo joins others around the country, following a Nov. 3 Web posting by the bishops’ national Secretariat for Liturgy that said bishops could adapt liturgical practices as necessary in areas where there has been a significant influenza outbreak. The Secretariat said widespread liturgical adaptations are not necessary at this time.

Catholics in Burlington, Vt., will not be receiving Communion from a common cup for the next few months and were asked by Bishop Kenneth A. Angell not to shake hands when exchanging a sign of peace.

In Cleveland, Ohio, the diocese left specific changes in liturgical practice up to parishioner discretion, but did suggest similar health precautions to those of Bishop Lennon, such as having extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion wash their hands before Mass.

CNS material contributed to this report