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Buffalo Diocese continues communion at Mass, but takes flu, coronavirus precautions

The Buffalo Diocese is urging sick people not to attend Mass because of the flu and novel coronavirus threat, but for now will continue the sharing of a common cup at Holy Communion.

A diocese statement on the matter cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finding that the risk for infectious disease transmission by a common communion cup “is very low.”

The Buffalo Diocese weeks ago circulated precautions for the cold and flu season at Masses and it disseminated those precautions in parishes again this week, a spokesman for the diocese said.

The diocese consists of more than 500,000 Catholics in 161 parishes in eight counties.

The risk of coronavirus in Western New York has not been as high as the risk of flu, and the outbreak of flu here had not risen to a level where more extreme precautions were necessary, said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, apostolic administrator of the diocese.

“I see no reason to alter what has already been sent out from the directives for the flu season, at this moment,” Scharfenberger said in an interview this week. “It could change tomorrow, but I think that our precautions that we’ve already put out regarding the flu season are sufficient because the danger from the flu in Buffalo remains greater than the danger from coronavirus at this point.”

Diocese officials urged people who suspect they have the flu, serious cold or other contagious illnesses to stay home and not attend Mass.

The precautions also note that pastors may exercise discretion “as to temporarily refraining from distributing” Holy Communion in the form of both the consecrated host (unleavened bread) and the precious blood (wine), “depending on the severity of an outbreak and how widespread it has become within the parish boundaries.”

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