Archdiocese halts Communion wine practice amid flu season

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THE BRONX -

A common practice in church has been temporarily suspended as flu season rages on.

Taking communion at Catholic Mass usually includes eating a wafer that symbolizes Christ's body and sipping wine from a communal cup to symbolize his blood.

However, the Archdiocese of New York has called for the wine drinking to temporarily stop. Church leaders say they want to protect their parishioners from the very serious flu that is widespread in the state and the country.

They are recommending that members not make physical contact with those who are sick during the peace offering at Mass – which is usually marked with a handshake between congregants.

Saint Benedict's in Throgs Neck is heeding the warning and has removed the communal wine practice from its services for now.

"We're at a proportion in this flu season that we really need to take it seriously so as a pastor, I need to be concerned for the whole community and that's what I believe I'm trying to do," says Father Stephen Norton.

But not all are happy with the decision. Parishioner Liza Gecaj says she is disappointed to see the tradition halted.

"I think it's not a good idea," says Gecaj. "I believe it's sacred and I believe you get healed by God (of) whatever disease you're going to have."

Church leaders say the wine-drinking practice will be reinstated when flu season ends.

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