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Have the flu? Atlanta archbishop advises ill Catholics to skip Mass

If you have any doubts about this year being a particularly serious flu season, you can put those to rest.

The Catholic Church is suggesting their parishioners stay home if they have the flu.

Here’s a letter from Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta, being shared with local Catholic churches and parishioners. 

Many parts of the country, including Georgia, have been hit particularly hard by influenza this winter. We continue to monitor both the guidance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and our local situation. We will be in touch immediately if it seems appropriate to take more significant steps, such as temporarily suspending Communion from the chalice or on the tongue. 

At this point, anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should be advised not to attend Sunday Mass (or other parish activities), partake from the chalice or participate in the exchange of the Sign of Peace.  The possibility of infection with influenza represents a sufficient reason not to attend Sunday Mass, and obviates the Sunday obligation. 

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The USCCB Secretariat on Divine Worship has posted vital information regarding the flu: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacred-art-and-music/influenza-and-the-liturgy.cfm I urge you to familiarize yourself and your parish family with the information presented there.

The memo went to pastors in the archdiocese, but some pastors shared it with their parishioners. Spokeswoman Paula Gwynn Grant said the archdiocese sent the memo as guidance following news reports about the severity of the flu and reports that some hospital emergency rooms were full. She said the archdiocese has not received any complaints about sick parishioners. “This was just being proactive,” she said.

  

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Retiree Delores Jean Brannan has been going to St. Anthony of Padua Church for more than five decades.

Lately, she’s noticed more parishioners are skipping sipping from the communion chalice. When people prepare to get the communion wafer, out comes the hand sanitizer. 

“I’ve never seen that before,” she said.

“I would not want someone sitting next to me who was coughing all the time,” Brannan said. “If you’re sick or have  a cold, I think you should stay home.”

She said she recently joked during choir rehearsal that “we’ve got to stop doing the rite of peace for a while with all this flu going around,” she said. “This flu epidemic is rough.”

When giving the sign of peace, many Catholics shake hands or hug those around them.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe recently issued guidelines for those concerned about the flu:

  • Instead of shaking hands or hugging during the ‘Sign of Peace,’  just nod your head.
  • Fold your hands when praying the “Our Father” instead of holding hands.
  • Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should wash their hands just before and after distribution of  Holy Communion .
  • If you are sick, sneezing or coughing, it would be best for you to stay home. You are welcome to take advantage of the Sunday TV Masses which are available in English and Spanish. It is not a sin to miss Mass on Sundays if you are ill. 

The archdiocese said the directives will be “revoked when the situation improves.”

Don Plummer, a spokesman for the Atlanta Episcopal Diocese, said no guidelines have been issues so far.

“The culture in the Episcopal Church traditionally is that if you are sick “you  dip the wafer into the wine, rather than take the wine directly from the cup.”

   

        

  

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