Monday, May 4, 2009

Swine flu outbreak forces churches to reconsider communal wine cup

Thousands of children will be making their first Communions in Catholic churches across the region this weekend, their first opportunity to partake in what Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ.

But the ceremonies may not go off exactly as planned for some, as churches consider suspending the communal cup for sacramental wine, along with other precautions to stem the spread of the swine flu.

Concerns about a possible swine flu pandemic spread through Wisconsin houses of worship this week, where leaders were taking steps to educate their congregations and minimize any potential spread.

"We're using this as a teachable moment to underscore the idea that Christ is present in both" the Communion bread and the wine, said Julie Wolf of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, which issued a statement late Friday reminding pastors that they have the option not to offer communal wine as part of the sacrament of Eucharist if they see fit.


Episcopal and Lutheran leaders said they were leaving it up to individual pastors to decide whether to use a common cup for wine.

David Pfaff, canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, issued an e-mail to pastors suggesting they remind parishioners that they have the option of dipping their consecrated host in the communal wine, or declining the wine altogether.

"We will continue to offer both and let people use their own judgment," he said.

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