Northern Ireland news

Mass goers urged to 'use good sense' over sign of peace during flu season

Shaking hands in the sign of peace
By Mairead Holland

MASS goers in parishes across several dioceses are being asked to "use good sense" when offering the sign of peace as the winter flu season approaches.

The diocese of Derry and Clogher have said that while there is no official policy in place, their message to parishioners is to be conscious of health advice such as washing hands before and after services.

It comes after the traditional greeting was suspended earlier this month at masses in the Diocese of Down and Connor as part of efforts to stop the spread of flu.

Gary Carville, director of communications for the Diocese of Clogher, also pointed out there are alternatives to the sign of peace, such as bowing or another form of acknowledgement.

"The diocese is leaving it up to individual parishes and faith communities to make their own decisions," he added.

Fr Michael Canny, from the Waterside parish, who was speaking on behalf of the Derry Diocese, said that unless there was a directive from health officials, they would be asking people to use good sense.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Dromore said it has not issued advice to parishes yet on this winter season.

"The diocese monitors the guidance of health boards each winter and acts in accordance with any published recommendation brought to its attention," he added.

The suspension in the diocese of Down and Connor was introduced following medical advice.

A spokesman said it will stay in place all winter and will be reviewed upon further medical advice.

The diocese has suggested each parish should consider providing hand sanitisers at and around church entrances to help promote good hygiene.

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