WICHITA FALLS - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has implemented temporary changes in its 90 churches, with the hope that the only thing that spreads among the congregation is what's being preached.
Several signs stating " Flu protocol is in place," is one of the first things parishioners at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Wichita Falls saw this weekend, Indicating some things would be missing from Mass.
The diocese implemented the protocol ahead of weekend services.
"It's a way to be considerate and to help protect others who otherwise might get sick, despite our best intentions," Bishop Michael Olson, of the Diocese of Fort Worth, said.
The changes being made, for now, include the absence of consecrated wine being distributed during communion, as well as no handshaking during what's known as the "sign of peace " ( a modern day symbol of the peace Jesus extended to his apostles). Even though the leader of the diocese is the one to give the word, he pointed out he didn't make the decision alone.
"I heard about it from healthcare professionals as well as nurses, etc. public health people. And so, with them, I made the decision," Bishop OIson explained.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, wine is distributed in a common cup and then wiped with a cloth, known as a purificator. Even though receiving the cup is not required for the congregation, during flu season, many church members agree that drinking from a communal cup may not be the best idea.
"People perceive that they can get sick from that. So, it's (the protocol) good," said Bret Parker, Sacred Heart Church Director or Liturgy and Music.
And as far as the sign of peace or shaking hands during Mass...
"It's also optional," Olson stated. "Many people don't know that, because we do it so regularly. It's not essential to the celebration of the Mass."
Area parishioners understand the temporary changes are just that: temporary.
"I like it. I'm a bit of a germophobe anyway," Rebecca Parker, a Sacred Heart parishioner, said.
"The more we can do to prevent the spread of germs the better."
Officials with the diocese say the changes will remain in place until further notice.
The official statement from the diocese can be found here.
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