The World Health Organization upped its swine flu pandemic meter today to a level five. Health officials now fully expect a global pandemic to follow. Though we still know very little about the flu strain, how it is spread and just how serious a threat it poses, hysteria is starting to set in. For example: When I was told today that a colleague on the ad side of our office had just returned from Mexico, I wasted little time before leaving the building; when I had to walk by her cubicle, I held my breath.
In Egypt, one of the few Muslim countries where religious minorities raise pigs, the government has ordered the slaughtering of 300,000 swine. China and Russia have said they don’t want American pork, even though the disease is not a food-borne illness (great report from Marketplace). And the Catholic Church announced it will change Mass practices to prevent the flu’s spread.
More from the Catholic News Service:
Father Michael Dugan, director of the Office of Liturgy for the Diocese of Dallas, reminded parishioners of their obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. If a parishioner is sick, however, Father Dugan recommended that he or she stay home to avoid spreading the illness.
Father Dugan also said that “members of our congregations should not be offended at this time if someone chooses not to shake the other person’s hand at the sign of peace.”
“If you are ill, the appropriate response to someone extending a sign of peace might be to bow to them and say, ‘Peace be with you,’ to avoid bodily contact, or one might wave slightly at the other person,” he added in the online statement.
Father Dugan also suggested that parishioners who feel sick should receive Communion in their hands and avoid drinking from the communal chalice.
To limit the spread of the swine flu virus, the Secretariat of Divine Worship advised priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Communion “to use an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing holy Communion.”
Ministers and pastors should also ask parishioners not to receive from the cup if they feel ill, it said.
Individual bishops may decide whether they feel it is necessary to change such practices during the celebration of the liturgy within their diocese. However, the Secretariat of Divine Worship does not believe that widespread liturgical adaptations are necessary at this time to prevent the spread of the swine flu.