Flu brings changes to Catholic mass in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Diocese of Savannah is recommending minor adjustments to mass to help prevent the spread of the flu.

Bishop Gregory Hartmayer recommended churches throughout the diocese temporarily stop offering wine from the common cup during flu season, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist adopted the change Sunday.

"Our bishop, Gregory Hartmayer, sent us a letter and recommended that we temporarily discontinue receiving communion from the common cup at all of our Sunday masses and daily masses," said Father Gerry Schreck, rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. "We're going to do that. He's also recommending that at the part of the mass in which people are invited to exchange a sign of peace that we encourage people not to shake hands, but simply wish the person next to them the peace of Christ."

Eucharistic ministers, like Carol Letcher, also clean their hands with an antibacterial before distributing communion. She said she received an email from her coordinator alerting her to the changes with the cup.

"I think it's a good idea because it's been terrible this year," she said. "So, yeah, I think it's a great idea."

Schreck said the cathedral's implemented similar precautions several times in the last 10 years when flu seasons were particularly bad.

"We're just trying to be careful with hand contact and that sort of thing to not spread too many germs," he said.

Schreck said the changes will likely be in place until flu season passes. He said those who are sick should not attend mass.

"If someone is sick, someone has the flu, they should stay home," he said. "The obligation to attend mass would be dispensed at that point."

The diocese said it is up to the pastors at each church to decide what precautions they want to implement.

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