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Sunday, 4 October 2009

Diocese in Europe Swine Flu Guidelines: A Clarification

In my recent travels around the diocese, I have become aware of some confusion concerning the diocesan guidelines in the event of a swine flu pandemic. This is a note to clarify the situation.

  1. In July the Archbishops of Canterbury and York circulated advice to the bishops of the Church of England concerning precautions to be taken in the United Kingdom to prevent the spread of swine flu infection.  Based on the Archbishops' advice, guidelines were issued for the congregations of this Diocese in Europe, to come into effect if and when our local clergy determine that precautions must be taken. The measures in place in the United Kingdom are not automatically required in countries served by the Diocese in Europe. The decision to implement the guidelines is left to our clergy who will take into account local conditions and recommendations by relevant health authorities in the country where they serve. 
  2. Should steps to prevent infection be required, the diocesan guidelines state what those measures should be. Any practices other than those in the guidelines may in fact increase the spread of infection. For example the guidelines state that in the event of pandemic flu affecting a particular area, administration of the cup should be suspended and Holy Communion administered in one kind only. The custom of intinction (dipping the consecrated bread into the chalice) is not recommended as this may pose greater risk than the common cup, as it is difficult to avoid contact between fingers, cup and consecrated wine.
The judgment about when to impose precautions in the particular contexts of our diocese may vary, but it remains important that the measures imposed be the ones recommended and these alone, as they are based on the best public health advice available to the Archbishops of our Church.

Should the guidelines be brought into effect, here is a form of words that can be used in parish bulletins, newsletters and orders of service by way of explanation:

During this period of swine flu pandemic in [country or place] communion is received in one kind, the Bread, as recommended by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, our own diocesan guidelines and as allowed by the Sacrament Act 1547.

The diocesan guidelines can be found on the diocesan website here.

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