H1N1 threatens church traditions

By Tim Miller - bio | email

Posted by Dave Dykema - email

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - With warnings that the H1N1 virus might hit hard this flu season, one of the most sacred places in the lives of some northwest Ohioans may be forced to react, with some possible big changes to longstanding Roman Catholic rituals.

In Catholic churches, the traditional handshake, the Lord's Prayer, even one of the holy sacraments may be hurt if H1N1 gets out of control.

At Holy Rosary Cathedral on Collingwood, they haven't ordered parishioners to do anything different--yet.

Fr. Charles Singler has added a note in his church bulletins warning parishioners about the possible spread of the virus and what to do to protect the person next to them in the pew.

Besides those welcoming handshakes, the Father is telling the congregation they might want to reconsider traditions like touching during the "Sign of the Peace" or holding hands while reciting the Lord's Prayer.

"Our concern I think specifically is that people be sensible and responsible," says Fr. Singler. "You can certainly offer the sign of peace by turning to someone and nodding to them and saying 'peace be with you' rather than having to touch their hand or whatever."

Wednesday night was the yearly fall sports Mass at Holy Rosary. Junior High athletes and their coaches prayed and sang for God's guidance.

Before the Mass began, however, News 11 saw people shaking hands and hugging, greeting one another. How will congregants feel about the possible changes facing their intimate celebration?

"I don't think it's any reflection on anybody's faith or their belief or oh you won't shake my hand so you're not a Christian," says Jim Maher, a parishioner. "I think it's more like I hope people would understand it's a health issue."

Since everyone drinks from the same cups, they might also stop providing the Blood of Christ to parishioners during Holy Communion.

"You know sometimes you have to forgo something for a time, until something passes over," says Fr. Singler.

The Father even says it will be okay to skip church...if you are sick.

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