PORTLAND, Maine — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Thursday it is reinstituting a number of precautions to protect parishioners from H1N1, also known as the swine flu.
Bishop Richard Malone first implemented the modifications to practices during Masses for five weeks in April.
Malone’s announcement followed a similar one earlier this week by the Archdiocese of Boston.
Other denominations have instituted similar precautions to prevent spreading the flu at worship services and other church gatherings.
The diocese implemented the precautions again after consulting with state health authorities, said Sue Bernard, a diocesan spokeswoman.
Malone directed priests beginning this weekend to:
• Suspend distribution of the shared consecrated wine except to those who must receive “the cup” for medical reasons.
• Instruct parishioners not to shake hands during the “Sign of Peace,” but instead to offer a verbal greeting, smile or bow of the head.
• Tell worshippers not to hold hands when reciting the “Our Father,” or “Lord’s Prayer.”
• Encourage parishioners to receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.
• Remove sponges from holy water fonts, if they are being used.
• Include prayers for those stricken with the flu or other serious illness, for those who care for the sick and for the community at large in the “Prayers of the Faithful.”
• Instruct Eucharistic ministers to sanitize their hands before and after distributing Holy Communion.
Priests also will announce that parishioners who are at risk for complications because of chronic health problems or compromised health or have cold or flulike symptoms should stay home rather than risk infecting themselves or others.
“When individuals are ill, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation,” Malone said in a press release issued Thursday. “Encouraging people who are at risk to stay away from large church gatherings is an extra step intended to maintain their health.”
The flu protocols will remain in effect until further notice, Bernard said.