Poisoned chalice? Swine flu hits church wine

The Church of England's leaders are recommending parishoners don't share the chalice.
The archbishops of Canterbury and York are recommending that churches stop sharing the chalice at communion over swine flu fears, the Church of England said Thursday.

The archbishops wrote a letter to all Church of England bishops with the recommendation. It follows government advice not to share “common vessels” for food or drink so as not to spread the virus. In the Anglican Church, worshippers commonly drink from the same chalice during communion. The chalice is wiped before the next person drinks from it. For churches that still wish to offer both bread and wine, the archbishops recommend the priest dip communion wafers in the chalice before handing them out to those taking communion. “The Department of Health have recently advised us that ‘in a pandemic it makes good sense to take precautions to limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drink,'” the archbishops write in the letter.

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“In the light of this advice, we recommend those presiding at Holy Communion suspend the administration of the chalice during this wave of pandemic flu. For those who still wish to offer in both kinds, we recommend the practice whereby the presiding minister, whose hands should have been washed with the appropriate alcohol-based rub before handling the elements and the vessels, personally intincts all wafers before placing them in the hands of communicants.” Watch more on Australian vaccine trial ยป The archbishops note that this practice is widely observed in Anglican churches throughout Africa.

“Communicants receiving in this way need to be confident that the clergy and all assistant ministers follow the relevant guidance on hygiene,” they write. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, the second-largest Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic Church.