Archdiocese gives directives for flu prevention

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

As a precaution during the flu season – particularly with risks related to the H1N1 influenza or swine flu Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania are generally suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful and eliminating physical contact during the exchange of the sign of peace during the sacred Liturgy.

The directives become effective at weekend Masses Oct. 17-18 and will remain until determined otherwise by the local bishop.

During this period, holy Communion will be distributed only under the form of the consecrated host, the Body of Christ. A bow to persons nearby will replace the shaking of hands during the sign of peace.

Father G. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Worship, said the norms for the celebration of the sacred Liturgy allow for such directives at the discretion of the bishop without in any way detracting from the nature and purpose of the rites.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the U.S. bishops’ document on holy Communion under both forms reiterate the faith of the Church that Christ, whole and entire, is received even under only one form, Father Gill added.

During the duration of the directive, generally at concelebrated Masses, concelebrating priests are to receive the Body and Blood of Christ by intinction at the altar. Intinction occurs when the concelebrating priest dips the sacred host into the Precious Blood and then consumes it.

Although it has become widely customary, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal describes the exchange of the sign of peace as an option. In that regard, the directive of bishops of the commonwealth states that if the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation to exchange the sign of peace, the faithful should be instructed that, instead of a handshake, the manner could take the form of a bow to persons nearby.

Throughout the flu season and beyond, the clergy and lay faithful are encouraged to observe the necessary standard precautions to protect the health of themselves and others. Some bishops in Pennsylvania have made directives more explicit in their dioceses.

Bishops of Pennsylvania agreed to implement the directives at their most recent meeting, held Sept. 23 in Harrisburg.

Father Gill said that in assessing and applying the directives for the celebration of Mass people should, above all, exercise prudence and common sense.

A fun fact of which astute Catholics are already aware: the implementation of the flu season directives coincides with the feast of St. Luke the Physician, which the Church commemorates Oct. 18.

For more information, contact the Office for Worship at 215 -587-3537.