We have received the following guidelines from the Diocese of Elphin regarding the “sign of peace” during this present outbreak of flu.
“The sign of peace is an integral part of our preparation for Holy Communion. It is an acknowledgement of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and an expression of our commitment to the communion which we are about the share, with Christ and with one another. In our Irish tradition, the standard liturgical sign of peace is the shaking of hands. In circumstances where this seems inappropriate for some particular reason, another gesture, such as simply turning to the other person and saying “Peace be with You” would also be acceptable.
Common sense dictates that people would exercise good hand hygiene practices at any time, but especially in a time of ‘flu epidemic. The Diocese recommends that, as a standard procedure throughout the year, antiseptic gel or spray would be provided for and used by clergy and lay ministers, prior to distributing Holy Communion. Parishioners with ‘flu symptoms are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass, and should certainly not act as Ministers of Holy Communion while those symptoms persist. Those who are confined to home due to ill health will be able to join in prayer on the internet with the Congregation at the Cathedral www.sligocathedral.ie or indeed via webcam of other churches throughout the Diocese”.