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Dublin Archdiocese issues guidelines to prevent spread of flu and deadly coronavirus

By Cian Molloy - 10 February, 2020

“As a community of faith, we need to take proper care of ourselves. We must take care not to spread the flu,” says Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Some of the congregation at Mass in the Church of the Guardian Angels to mark World Day of the Sick. Photo: John Mc Elroy

Organisers of Dublin’s World Day of the Sick events this weekend are delighted with the response to both the Diocesan Mass held yesterday in the Church of the Guardian Angels in Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock, and a seminar that took place in the pastoral centre there the previous day.

The seminar was on the theme ‘Hope in the Face of Suicide’ and attendees included those who have been affected by suicide, and church personnel, chaplains and parish pastoral workers who work to support those affected by suicide and suicidal behaviour.

“The seminar was very well attended, with great feedback about the quality of the speakers,” said Trish Conway, chairperson of the Dublin Diocesan World Day of the Sick Committee.

“The Mass on Sunday was very well attended, considering how bad the weather was because of Storm Ciara,” she added. “There were more than 500 people present and it was a lovely occasion, with refreshments afterwards in the new pastoral centre.”

Coincidentally, the Dublin Archdiocese recently published guidance for its parishes on how they should take steps to help prevent the spread of seasonal flu and, in a nod to the recent coronavirus outbreak in China, other more serious epidemics.

“As a community of faith, we need to take proper care of ourselves,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. “We must take care of each other’s well being. We must take care not to spread the flu.”

One of the first decisions anyone who is ill needs to make, for the well-being of the wider parish community, is whether they should attend Mass. Archbishop Martin said: “People with flu symptoms are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass. Those with flu symptoms should stay at home for seven days from the onset of illness. The obligation to take part in Mass does not apply to those who are sick. The sick person might join in celebrating Mass via the internet or radio.”

In cases where a priest’s health is “compromised by cold or flu”, then the guidance is that the priest’s chalice should be restricted to him only and not used to distribute the Precious Blood to other ministers. Additional chalices should be used for common distribution.

In the past, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), based in Gardiner Street, Dublin, has called for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue to be “discouraged”.  But Archbishop Martin says: “No one is to be refused communion because they wish to receive on the tongue. If it does occur, priests or ministers of the Eucharist should clean their hands using an alcohol-based hand gel.”

The guidance also states that after communion vessels have been ritually purified, sacristans should still wash the vessels with soap and hot water after each use. Holy water fonts also need to be kept hygienic, with water frequently changed and regularly washed with a household cleaner, such as washing-up liquid.

Shaking hands at the time of the ‘sign of peace’ is classified by the HSPC as a low-risk activity for spreading viruses. However, Dr Martin says people might consider bowing towards one another, rather than shaking hands, while saying “Peace be with you”.

The archbishop has told his priests that they might tell their parishioners: “Due to the number of colds and flu around, we would kindly remind parishioners that during the sign of peace it is fine to simply smile, wave, or bow to others to convey Christ’s peace to them.”

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