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No handshake ban at mass despite ‘Aussie Flu’ outbreak

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The Diocese of Clogher has said there will be no handshake ban implemented at churches across Fermanagh following the ‘Aussie Flu’ outbreak but it is advising parishes to keep the matter under review and take action where required.
It comes as the H3N2 strain hit Ireland over the festive period. A parish in Donegal has already suspended the customary shaking of hands sign of peace at masses in response to the increasing numbers of people suffering from the flu virus.
Fr Cathal O Fearrai, PP of Kilbarron Parish in Ballyshannon has said the tradition was being suspended as a precautionary measure due to the continuing and increasing risk from the deadly infection.
“There is a lot of flu going around and very often by shaking hands it can be passed on from one person to another,” Fr O Fearrai said, adding that this is a temporary measure and the suspension would be reviewed in due course.
The traditional shaking of hands has also been suspended at all masses in the Diocese of Down and Connor “until the risk of infection is significantly reduced”.
The Diocese of Clogher said this week that it was conscious of the public health implications arising from the current outbreak of ‘Australian Flu’ and in the first instance, urges people to follow the advice given by the public health authorities.
A spokesman told the Herald: “Those showing symptoms of flu should remain at home and, if possible, be united to the faith community through Mass on local radio or, where they exist, via web cams.”
With regard to the sign of peace, the diocese has pointed out that this expression of communion with God and with one another is an optional part of the Mass and a matter for each celebrant and parish community.
“It should be noted also that the peace may be exchanged by means other than shaking hands, such as a simple verbal greeting. Parishes should keep the matter under review and be conscious of the ongoing public health situation. At the very least, parishes are asked to ensure that ministers of the Eucharist wash their hands before and after the distribution of Holy Communion and special arrangements, such as separate chalices, should be in place for coeliacs.
“Everyone has a responsibility to minimise the spread and impact of any public health threat and this should apply in all situations of daily social interaction,” he added.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA