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Diocese of Rockville Centre

Office of Communications

Diocese of Rockville Centre Announces Liturgical Guidelines for Influenza Season Print E-mail

For Immediate Release

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. – November 5, 2009 – This year’s flu season brings heightened concerns to everyone with the addition of the H1N1 strain of influenza virus.  To that end, the Diocese of Rockville Centre issued liturgical guidelines approved by Bishop William Murphy, which are intended to give pastors the support and flexibility to meet their pastoral responsibilities during the influenza season. 
“The guidelines are a reminder of the need to practice prudence, good hygiene and proper respiratory etiquette (including sneezing and coughing into one’s elbow rather than one’s hand) at all times but especially when the flu is prevalent,” said Sean P. Dolan, Director of Communications, Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The guidelines, sent to pastors of the 133 parishes that comprise the Diocese of Rockville Centre include:
• Those who have the flu or believe they may be coming down with the symptoms are excused from Sunday Mass.
• Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist should wash their hands before and after Mass and discreetly use antibacterial solution before communion, if possible.  Also, ministers should refrain from distributing Holy Communion when they experience symptoms of the flu. 
• Those who wish to refrain from shaking hands during the Sign of Peace may offer a gesture or nod or word of friendship instead.  All should understand and accept such a gesture as a genuine sign of peace. 
• Persons who are not feeling well should refrain from receiving the Precious Blood from the Chalice.  Proper purification and cleansing of vessels is necessary and pastors may need to temporarily refrain from offering the Cup during a severe outbreak of the flu.
• Individuals engaged in apostolic activities, especially outreach to the infirm at home or in hospitals or nursing homes, should be attentive to hygiene and should refrain from these activities when they are not feeling well.  Individual hospitals and facilities will have their own guidelines and volunteers are expected to respect them. 
• Schools and religious education programs should follow the practices and recommendations of the local boards of health and school districts. 
The guidelines are intended for pastors, parishioners and volunteers.  If followed correctly they will help reduce the risk of spreading the influenza virus. 
To access the guidelines visit


About The Catholic Church of Long Island
The Diocese of Rockville Centre ( was formed in 1957 and covers 1,198 square miles in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.  The diocese serves approximately 1.5 million Catholics (total population in both counties is approximately 3.4 million).  There are 133 parishes in 115 towns.  Last year over 17,000 baptisms, 19,000 confirmations, 17,000 first communions and 3,000 marriages took place in the diocese.  There are approximately 20,000 students in Catholic elementary schools; 13,000 in secondary schools and 3,500 in higher institutions.  There are 69 Catholic elementary and high schools and one Catholic college in the diocese.  Catholic Health Services of Long Island consists of five hospitals, three nursing homes, a community-based home for those with special needs and a hospice.  In 2008, Catholic Charities assisted more than 55,485 individuals who are poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged on Long Island.  (12/08).

CONTACT: Sean P. Dolan
  Director of Communications
  (p) 516-678-5800, ext. 625
  (c) 516-510-0473