Church in Alicante advises its congregation to avoid physical contact when sharing the peace in attempt to prevent the spread of Swine Flu
Yesterday a priest in Alicante advised his congregation to avoid any physical contact such as kissing or shaking hands when greeting fellow members of the congregation during the traditional giving of the peace. His advice is in line with that issued by the Ministry of Health last Friday in an attempt to stop the spread of swine flu.
According to a report in the local newspaper, Diario Informacion, after listening to a sermon dedicated almost entirely to making people more conscious of the need to follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines the congregation was left somewhat confused when the moment arrived for them to share the peace which is traditionally done by shaking hands or kissing fellow worshipers. Advised by the priest to use the “reverence” method and avoid direct contact, many just nodded their heads at each other in giving and acknowledging the peace, although some could not resist the traditional kissing or shaking hands and one member of the congregation on leaving the church said that he was not going to stop kissing his wife or shaking hands with friends or colleagues despite the Priest’s advice.
Another member of the congregation suggested that if the Church wanted to take measures to help avoid the spread of the virus, a more effective method could be for the congregation not to have to receive Holy Communion from the hands of the priest but taking the holy bread in their own hands instead.
The Priest of Santa Maria said that his advice was motivated by recent guidelines issued by the Minister for Health, Trinidad Jiménez, as a result of the 14,391 new cases of swine flu registered in Spain last week. However, he also said that the government’s guidelines were somewhat “relative” as they did not include any warnings against “promiscuity amongst the young”.
The Priest of the Cathedral of Toledo has also contributed to the debate of how to limit the spread of swine flu among church members, and this weekend he advised his congregation to just touch the Holy Medal of its Sacred Virgin instead of kissing it which is how they usually show their respect.