Bishop Soto suspends hand holding, shaking hands during Mass

To avoid spread of flu

Do not shake hands. Photo from Catholic World Report

The following comes from a Jan. 10 notice on the Sacramento diocese website.

The California Department of Public Health has reported that the incidence of flu and flu-like illnesses is widespread and has reached a level requiring that we enact preventive measures to mitigate the possibility of infection at Mass. In order to protect the health and well-being of everyone, Bishop Soto has issued the following directives:

  • – The use of the Communion cup is suspended temporarily.
  • – Receive the Body of Christ in the hand (although receiving on the tongue is permitted)
  • – Do not shake hands. Offer the sign of Peace to those around you with a simple nod, saying “peace be with you.”
  • – Do not hold hands during the Our Father.
  • – Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are reminded to cleanse their hands with an alcohol-based antiseptic before and after administering Holy Communion. This also applies to those who take Holy Communion to the home-bound.

The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and other Holy Days does not apply to those who are sick. If you are sick, stay home and take of yourself. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time. And pray for those who are sick. The administration of Holy Communion in both kinds will resume as soon as the Bishop deems it safe and prudent to do so.


  1. St. Christopher says

    All of these Mass events are wrong and disrespectful of the Real Presence, in any event. All should be immediately stopped. The Mass is not a social event, yet in some diocese, the mandatory hand-holding and the happy time sign of peace make the Mass pretty much a party. Things are noisy, with very little of the dignity that should accompany a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Calvary. Oh, I forgot, this kind of Mass is supposed to be a “meal.” Look, if you are so intent on the church social model, join the Baptists. Very nice people, and they hold many kinds of really good meals where you can talk all you want to. And, there are no real rules and no sacraments to bother with.

  2. But ad orientem Mass is prohibited?

  3. The common Communion Cup should be discontinued permanently. If one can get the flu from it, one can get any disease any time. I never take from it. When I did for just awhile years ago, I was getting a lot of colds.

    The Lord probably dipped the morsel into the sacred wine, and gave it to the Apostles that way, by intinction, or consecrated all their cups. They did not drink out of the same cup.

  4. As an elderly person living in the Diocese of Sacramento, I want to thank Bishop Soto for caring about parishioners’ health. I do not want to die from an illness (e.g. flu) that I contracted while attending Mass at Church. The Ordinary Form of the Mass at my parish is celebrated in a holy and dignified manner.

  5. Seem like a common sense temporary precaution in a time of highly contagious diseases.
    I wonder how ‘ad orientem’ should be practiced in Australia. Facing more or less west north west??

    • Mike m, I suggest you look up the beautiful symbolism of Ad Orientem on line. Both the Old and the New Testament said that the Messiah would come from the east through the Eastern Gate of the Temple. Christ did just that on Psalm Sunday. Most early churches had the altars on the eastern side, or the priest and people faced Christ,( the Sun of God– the Light of the World) over the altar.

      • I especially recommend the website “Ad Orientem, Church of the Magdalen, although Wikipedia has some very good quotes from the early church fathers and saints on it.

  6. Patrick O'Brien says

    The right thing for the wrong reason.

  7. Some of the above comments show very little trust in the Holy Spirit working in the Church. The Sacraments don’t depend on the accidentals which we perceive as important, such as what part of the human body touches the Host first (hand oro tongue) or whether or not we shake hands or make the right bow at the right moment.

    • Fr. Higgins, I understand your concern about getting too legalistic; on the a other hand some priests and bishops have concerns about Hosts being found in seats, hymn racks and on floors, mostly after people have received in the hand. I had one person tell me he took the Host and gave it to a family member at home who was not even a catechized Catholic. They have even been used in certain areas for attempted black masses. This is less likely to happen if the Host is received on the tongue.

    • Fast track says

      I don’t see an argument that an sacrament is invalidated by certain “accidentals.” However, the objection is that the handling of the host is properly the privilege and province of the priest. Once laity start doing it, the stature of the priest is diminished. The use of the chalice renders and an impression that Christ is not fully present in either form. Both of these are examples of protestant influences in the Church since Vatican 2. Sure the Holy Spirit is working but why do we have to excessively burden Him with a bunch of confusing and pointless innovations?

    • St. Christopher says

      Unclear what you intend to say, “John Higgins,” but your comments are troublesome. First, “trusting the Holy Spirit,” is the prime excuse given by the Vatican and by many truly awful bishops and priest in the USA for despoiling the Mass, away from Catholic Tradition, and giving us the destruction of the institutional Church that we have today. From the Pope down, many, many in the Church avoid our Deposit of Faith and do whatever they want to at Mass and in the Sacraments. As to the Mass itself, yes, it does matter greatly how you worship and the reverence shown to God (lex orandi, lex credendi and all that). But then, few Catholics of today (as shown in polls) believe in the Real Presence anyway.

  8. St. Christopher has it exactly right. All these things should be done away with, and not because of the spread of flue, but because they are not conducive to what the Mass is about, they are ways of taking attention away from the Lord and focusing on ourselves. And there is absolutely NO NEED for anyone to receive Our Lord in any other way but through the Most Blessed Sacrament which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.

  9. Joseph the M says

    If anyone has a link to a real medical study showing disease has ever been spread by a chalice, please post it here.

    • Joseph, although I do not take from the Holy Cup myself, I do bow my head when passing by it. Sometimes it is hard to do when so many Communion Cups are presented. It, of course, the decision of the bishops and those with the authority to decide whether or not to allow it. Nevertheless, It has not been the tradition of Eastern Rite Catholics nor the separated Eastern churches, nor the Latin Rite until fairly recently. There must have been grave reasons for that.

  10. “Let us all offer each other the sign of peace.” What sign of peace? Where is it specified that “the” sign of peace is a handshake? Or anything in particular for that matter?

  11. Hugging , physical contact with other mass attendees is part of why Catholics in large numbers have dropped out of church attendance. Return the mass to the essential reason for observing. Discard new age emotionalism, entertainment, pulpit political activisitism, and restore sacredness to the ritual of reenactment of Jesus and His last supper.

  12. Before 1962, none of these things were an issue.

  13. Commentator says

    For years, for decades, it’s all so sickeningly tiring, people holding hands at the Our Father, raising their arms and waving their hands in the air, hugging and giving high fives at the “sign” of peace. And nary a priest who says anything, ever, in terms of instruction, or how there is nothing in the rubrics even suggesting this. It’s all a bunch of monkey-see monkey-do by hoards of ignorant Catholics who have never done 5 minutes of theological reading, and to whom the idea that anything, much less everything, at Mass should be according to an authoritative basis (GIRM, anyone?). This is all the fault of a priesthood who apparently just doesn’t care. Again, decade after decade. It’s totally inexcusable.

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