By John Toole
---- — The spiritual leader of New Hampshire’s Roman Catholics is taking steps to protect his flock from the flu.
The Most Rev. Peter A. Libasci, bishop of the Diocese of Manchester, is encouraging the sick to stay home from Mass and implementing temporary changes in the service to help keep those who worship from becoming ill.
Libasci outlined a series of directives to priests and deacons, which were read at weekend Masses in the diocese.
“Parishioners who feel ill should be reminded to stay at home and refrain from attendance at church celebrations until they are fully recovered,” Lisbasci said.
When people are at Mass, they will see some changes.
“The faithful should be encouraged to share the Sign of the Peace without touching hands or kissing,” Libasci said. “This may be done with smiles and a bow of the head in reverence to one another.”
Communion should only only be given in the form of consecrated bread, the bishop said. Communicants won’t be able to get wine via the chalice.
“However, if you have individuals in your parish who have Celiac disease and can only receive communion from the chalice, then they should be allowed to make the choice as to whether or not they are comfortable receiving from the chalice at this time,” the bishop said.
Special requests can be made to priests in those cases.
The bishop also asked priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of communion to be especially mindful of the need to practice good hygiene, washing hands before Mass and using anti-bacterial solutions before communion.
He has requested that greeters and ushers refrain from shaking hands with parishioners and use only verbal greetings.
Similar restrictions were imposed last week in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Pam Lamontagne, a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas in Derry, said the church has done this before when flu was a problem and the temporary changes are just common sense.
“You can say ‘peace’ to somebody without shaking their hand,” Lamontagne said.
The bishop stressed the changes are temporary and will be lifted when the flu is no longer a problem.
“Once the flu season is over, we will quickly reinstitute our traditional means of sharing the Sign of Peace and norm of distributing communion from the cup,” Libasci said.