Ebola and Flu: Changes in Communion Policy?

We’ve receive some calls regarding the Communion Policy and guidelines for Eucharistic Ministers in light of Ebola and the Flu Season.  The following will be inserted into the bulletin on October 26:

Dear People of God,

We’ve received a few calls regarding the policy regarding communion in light of flu season and the Ebola situation.  The policy at Saint Victor is whatever has been promulgated by the Diocese of Cleveland and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The policy is reprinted below:

During this time of heightened attention to infectious illnesses, parishes may receive requests from parishioners to make changes to the liturgical celebration in order to prevent the spread of viruses. Currently our diocese is following The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops procedures for flu season.  The USCCB, in consultation with the Center for Disease Control, recommends that the following measures be taken in the celebration of the liturgy:

a) Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be especially reminded of the need to practice good hygiene. Ministers of Holy Communion should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins, or even to use an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.

b) Pastors should instruct people who feel ill not to receive from the cup. [Editor’s note by Father Corrigan: It would seem to me that logically this would also pertain to the minority who receive communion on the tongue.  Receiving in the hands seems to be the majority practice and certainly more hygienic.  This is my lay opinion as a non-medically trained person, and not an official policy.]

c) The Diocesan Bishop should always be consulted regarding any changes or restriction of options in the celebration of Roman Catholic Liturgy. However, the need for the introduction of widespread liturgical adaptations for the prevention of the transmission of influenza in the dioceses of the United States of America is not evident at this time.

d) Many often express concerns about greeting others or exchanging the sign of peace. There are a number of options for exchanging Christ’s peace beyond shaking hands, and individual Catholics are encouraged to feel free to refrain from hand-shaking at the Sign of Peace if they are concerned about spreading illnesses.

Pastors may wish to share with the faithful the following recommendations, intended to prevent the spread of the flu, from the Center for Disease Control:  There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.  Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.  Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.  Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.  If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.  Continuously updated information is available from the CDC at www.CDC.gov/flu.

With the exception of the first and last paragraph of this letter, and the Editorial Note inserted in item (b) above, this text was received from Jeanne Marie Miles, who is the Director of the Liturgy Office of the Diocese of Cleveland, on October 16, 2014.

Allen F. Corrigan, Pastor


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