Archbishops advise against sharing chalice during swine flu pandemic

|PIC1|The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to bishops in the Church of England advising them to halt the sharing of the chalice during communion to help prevent the spread of swine flu.

During communion, members of the congregation typically drink wine from a chalice before it is wiped clean by the presiding minister and administered to the next communicant.

The Archbishops have issued the latest guidelines following new advice from the Department of Health against the sharing of “common vessels” for food or drink.

Some churches have halted the use of wine during communion altogether and are now offering only bread, while other churches have taken to administering communion wine in separate glasses for each member of the congregation.

Church members showing symptoms of swine flu are being asked to refrain from attending services or church meetings.

For churches still wishing to offer bread and wine, the Archbishops recommend the use of “personal intinction by the presiding minister”, in which the priest may dip communion wafers in the chalice before handing them out to communicants.

The Archbishops said it was important that clergy were aware of the latest advice on swine flu contained in their letter and being handed out by diocesan bishops.

Clergy, they added, should offer guidance to the congregation about appropriate precautions in receiving communion and exchanging the peace.

“We shall keep this advice under review and will ensure that the detailed guidance provided on the Church of England website is kept up-to-date,” they wrote.

“In the meantime, we wish to express our gratitude to you and those who share your ministry for the pastoral care and service offered at this time of national concern.”

The UK and other European governments are waiting for the green light from the European Medicines Agency to start using an untested vaccine against swine flu, despite concerns from the World Health Organisation about the possible dangers of using a vaccine that has not undergone large-scale human trials.