Flu Scare Is Changing Church Services

Fresno, CA Catholic churches throughout the valley are putting some standard rituals on hold until they feel the flu outbreak is under control.

"Glory to god in the highest!"

Parishioners at Saint Anthony's church in Northwest Fresno were taken by surprise Saturday. "No water? No water. Everyone is asking, where's the water?"

For the next several weeks, and possibly even months, several catholic churchgoers will no longer be able to bless themselves with holy water that's normally available at church entrances.

Wendy Forestiere said, "I miss my holy water. I do. I really do."

Other changes include not being able to drink from the chalice and only being able to receive communion on the hands and not the tongue.

These changes come after Bishop John Steinbach of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno issued a statement Thursday about the flu outbreak and the precautionary measures churches should take.

Monsignor Rob Wezinger of Saint Anthony's applauds the bishop's efforts and says his parishioners have been supportive of those changes: "So far, people have been really good about it. They recognize we're trying to be helpful, not restrictive."

And while some may say the church is taking these precautions a little too far, others say they'll do whatever it takes to make sure they remain in good health.

Karen Escobar said, "I think it's a good idea that they take precautions, we don't want to go crazy."

Norman Alston said, "If you are at home, stay at home so you don't spread it. People come to mass and they're coughing gagging and sneezing and that's the fear and that's what we need to preserve with precautions and stuff."

Catholic Church officials say these precautions are not only being taken here, but all over the world, including Mexico.

They said at this point, it's hard to tell how long these changes will be in effect.

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