FaithWorld

Flu fears impact worship services

Flu fears are already changing the face of some religious services, from Mexico where church gatherings are discouraged to the United States where wine shared from a common cup has been suspended in some parishes. We’ve already blogged about this but offer more detail from other places here.

FLU/

U.S. Catholic bishops have issued general guidelines saying clergy and lay ministers who distribute communion wafers “should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins,  or even to use an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.”

“They should instruct people who feel ill not to receive from the cup,” containing wine which Catholics believe becomes the blood of Jesus Christ during Mass.

And while the bishops’ Committee on divine Worship said it does not see the need for widespread changes in liturgy, some churches have already made then.

In Texas where border communities have been hit by flu cases Bishop Raymundo Pena of the Diocese of Brownsville has asked priests to offer only bread to communicants, give communion in the hand and not on the tongue and ask parishioners not to hold hands during recitation of the Lord’s Prayer or to shake hands at the sign of peace during Mass.

Tough times empty the collection plate

For many churches, synagogues and mosques in the United States, this holiday season will be a lean one.

The outpouring of contributions usually prompted by festive goodwill and end-of-the-year giving geared to next year’s income tax calculations is feeling the pinch from the global financial meltdown. The shortfalls are startling. (Photo: Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Chicago, 10 April, 2008/John Gress)

“The giving patterns we’re witnessing suggest that churches, alone, will receive some $3 billion to $5 billion less than expected during this fourth quarter. The average church can expect to see its revenues dip about 4 percent to 6 percent lower than would have been expected without the economic turmoil. We anticipate that other non-profit organizations will be hit even harder.”

Look who’s celebrating Reformation Day today

Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in eastern Germany and set off the Protestant Reformation. It is a public holiday in the five eastern German states, in Slovenia and — this year for the first time — in Chile.

Chile? Isn’t that traditionally a Catholic country? Even the Catholic parts of Germany don’t celebrate Reformation Day.

Yes, Chile is traditionally Catholic, but now only about 70% so. Like elsewhere in Latin America, Protestant churches — especially evangelicals and Pentecostals — have spread rapidly in recent decades. They now make up just over 15% of the Chilean population, up from 7% in 1970. It’s not a new story, but creating a holiday especially for Protestants is a symbolic step towards recognising the changes in the religious landscape in Latin America.

Dominicans warn Dutch brothers against Catholic schism

Windmills at Kinderdijk, Netherlands, Jasper JuinenThe Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans, is warning its Dutch province against sliding into schism by pressing its proposal to allow lay Catholics to say mass if they have no priest available to do so. The Dutch Dominicans have proposed that because the worsening priest shortage means many congregations there don’t have anyone to celebrate the eucharist.

The Dutch Dominicans caused an uproar last autumn when they mailed a booklet called “Church and Ministry” (“Kerk en Ambt“) to parishes across the Netherlands without informing the country’s bishops beforehand. In it, they said a congregation should be allowed to appoint any devout Catholic as a lay minister — “Whether they be men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, married or unmarried is irrelevant” — and did not need the local bishop’s approval. The bishops promptly denounced the booklet and the order’s Rome headquarters distanced itself from it.

Now, the order has produced its own report (here in French under “lire le rapport“). It is — not surprisingly — highly critical of the radical proposals. It says they “risk not only worsening the polarisation within the Dutch Church but also encouraging schism.” The The Dutch Dominican booklet Kerk en Ambtauthor of the report, French Dominican Father Hervé Legrand, said the Dutch must know “the concrete results of the ordination of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States: nationally, the creation of new schismatic and competing dioceses, internationally, the split in the Anglican Communion.” Any congregation acting on these proposals would “dissolve into a sect,” he wrote.