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Churches want to forego communion cup over flu fears

ST. CLOUD -- In an effort to keep church members healthy during the flu season, the St. Cloud Catholic Diocese is recommending that churches in the 16-county area immediately forego the common communion cup and stop shaking hands with each other.

"Prevention of H1N1 is our highest priority right now," wrote Bishop John Kinney in a letter posted on the Diocese' Web site.

Based on advice from the Minnesota Department of Health, Kinney said he's asking the 136 parishes, as well as the schools and other institutions, in the diocese not to offer the common cup for communion at this time.

"Not only is there risk of infection from contact with saliva, but also from handing the Cup from person to person," he wrote.

Instead, the nearly 138,000 members will be offered only the bread during communion.

Because of the risk of spreading the virus, a verbal exchange, instead of a hand-shake, is being encouraged during the passing of the peace. Congregations that hold hands during prayers are also being asked to put that practice on hold.

A spokesperson with the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America said their office has not issued a similar directive. Any prevention efforts will be left up to the individual churches.