Article by Marc Aupiais
According to the Reuters news agency, some parishes seemingly belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, in Japan have dried up their Holy Water Basins: so to speak, in order to combat the swine flu / H1N1 2009 strain influenza / Pig Flu.
According to Reuters:
"The Franciscan Chapel Center in Tokyo is one church that has decided to empty the holy water basins, into which parishioners traditionally dip their fingers and bless themselves by making a sign of the cross."
(Reuters (Independent; British; Secular) Friday 21 / 08 | August / 2009)
Holy Water is used as a sacramental when entering a church, though it is technically not designated for use on leaving a parish church. It reminds Catholics of their baptism, and is supposed to symbolize the clearing of the mind of secular ("worldly") matters.
The news agency notes that another parish- St. Ignatius, has also excluded Holy Water from the traditional ritual in order to combat swine flu. Only 0.4 percent of Japan is Catholic, many attending churches are foreign nationals. Parishioners of the first parish mentioned are also encouraged to give a sign of peace, not involving touching- such as bowing to one another.
Circumstances with high densities of people, such as churches during celebrations / liturgy, schools, shopping centres, festivals, and Universities, have been seen as places one is more likely to get swine flu at. The Catholic Church permits persons who are sick or tending to the sick to miss mass, the obligation absolved for these persons. People suffering from flu like symptoms may be well advised to miss Sunday mass for the sake of others.
The Sign of peace, which was once a kiss, is generally now a handshake- health authorities, and some bishops' conferences have advised Catholics to share the sign of peace via a sign which does not involve touching the other individual physically.