Saturday, May 2, 2009
As the number of possible Inland swine flu cases rises, churches, synagogues and mosques are suspending rituals, asking sick congregants to stay home and reaching out to those in need.
In a sweeping move that will affect the hundreds of thousands of Inland Catholics who attend Mass each week, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino is prohibiting the drinking of wine from a communal cup during Mass in its 94 parishes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The diocese is also recommending that parishioners avoid shaking hands during the sign of peace, not hold hands during the reciting of the "Our Father" prayer, and receive the consecrated bread of communion in their hands, not on their tongues.
Holy water will be sanitized weekly during the epidemic, perhaps with a small amount of bleach...
Other dioceses are only advising people who feel ill to refrain from drinking from the common chalice and shaking hands...
Riverside's Temple Beth El on Thursday posted a sign on its door asking ill congregants to seek medical attention and go home rather than attend services or enter the synagogue's offices.
During the weekly Shabbat service, a cup of wine is usually passed around to people leading the Kiddush prayer service, said Rabbi Suzanne Singer. Friday night, for fear of spreading the flu virus, Singer asked only one person to drink from the cup. "We're not in any sort of panic or anything," Singer said. "We're just trying to be cautious."
Islamic ritual has a built-in precaution that could reduce the risk of spreading the flu: Worshippers wash their hands, mouth, ears and nose before the five-times-a-day prayers, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The council is urging imams to use daily and Friday prayer services to educate congregants about swine-flu precautions.
"Having a captive audience in a mosque and being addressed by a person of authority" can effectively spread prevention messages, said Ayloush, a Corona resident..