<BIG>Flu epidemic prompts some churches to stop offering Communion chalice</BIG>
By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- This year amid the raging flu epidemic in the United States, several dioceses have issued recommendations for receiving Communion, offering the sign of peace and even attending Mass.
According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season started earlier than usual this year. As of Jan. 16, 47 states were reporting widespread influenza activity, up from 41 states the previous week. The report also stated that the flu was beginning to subside in some areas, especially in the Southeast, where it first appeared.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted on its Facebook page and blog the recommendations it offered in 2009 regarding the flu and church practices.
The recommendations urged the use of common sense and basic hygiene stressing that priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion should "always wash their hands before Mass" and that the "the faithful should be instructed not to receive from the cup if they feel ill."
In mid-January, several Catholic dioceses posted guidelines on their websites about liturgical practices during flu season.