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Churches suspend sign of peace to battle flu

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From Ireland: 

Mass-goers are being asked to consider an alternative to the handshake or sign of peace in a bid to combat the spread of the winter flu virus.

The Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley has written to priests in his diocese, asking them to temporarily suspend the traditional handshake.

Dr Buckley has suggested priests ask congregations to consider using an alternative non-contact gesture to reflect the symbolism and meaning of the sign of peace.

This could range from a wave, a bow or simply a smile to show friendship and respect towards other Mass goers.

The measure is being recommended on a temporary basis.

It is aimed at avoiding any type of physical contact that could facilitate the spread of the flu virus between worshippers.

The precautionary measure was originally implemented during concern about the swine flu epidemic in 2009.

Masses in the diocese of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland have also suspended the traditional sign of peace handshake this week.

They’re also advising people to stop the gesture in some churches in Dallas:

Local churches are trying to help stop the spread. There are 1.2 million Catholics in the Dallas Diocese. Every priest got an advisory on how to keep people safe this flu season.

The Catholic Diocese in Dallas is taking extra steps to make sure people who attend mass stay healthy. There are 77 churches in the diocese.

Many people have heard mass announcements asking them to not shake hands during the sign of peace. Some people have decided to not drink from the communion cup.

Dr. Patricia Hughes is the director for the Office of Worship. She said, ultimately, it’s each person’s decision on what to do.

“During the flu season, probably the most courteous and simplest thing to do is to make eye contact or do a simple head bow like this would be a universal sign of courtesy and hospitality,” said Dr. Hughes.

Dr. Hughes also said if you feel sick, it’s okay to make the decision to stay home and not go to church.

Related: History of the Sign of Peace at Mass

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Deacon Greg Kandra
The Deacon's Bench
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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