Public Health

Religious Rituals Get Update For Swine Flu World

Catholics in Boston and many surrounding areas won't be sharing wine during Communion anymore — at least until threats of swine flu ease a bit.

A communal chalice of wine during Communion. i i

Not so fast! That communal chalice is a hotbed for germs. hide caption

itoggle caption
A communal chalice of wine during Communion.

Not so fast! That communal chalice is a hotbed for germs.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston issued a recommendation to churches yesterday to suspend the sipping of wine from a shared cup during Communion. They also suggest avoiding the traditional hugging or kissing of those in neighboring pews when passing the peace.

Changes to religious rituals have been rumored since the first outbreak of the H1N1 virus. NPR investigated the reaction of several individual places of worship back in September, but yesterday's formal movements by the Catholic Church seem to be some of the strongest strides towards containing the virus in public places. And the recommendations are straight out of the government's playbook.

The church change is taking place outside Boston, too. Catholic dioceses in England are issuing similar suggestions.

Officials are also calling for cutting down contact at other traditional gathering places. German health ministers warned concertgoers this summer to avoid kissing and sharing beer at a heavy metal music festival.

And TripAdvisor released a Top 5 Germiest World Attractions list in June, compiled by swine-flu-weary readers. Topping the list was the Irish Blarney Stone, which gets kissed by up to 400,000 visitors a year.

Other germ hotspots? Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, home to the hand and footprints of the stars. Visitors can't help but put their germ-ridden paws all over the famous impressions. Also on the list: the pigeon-infested St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, where tourists can buy bird seed to draw the dirty birds closer to them.

It seems that health officials agree, whether it's a church service or a globetrotting adventure you have in mind, pack the Purell and stand back a pace.



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