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Churches have changed their communion rituals in the face of the swine flu.

According to in Asheville, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh has asked church members not to drink from the same cup during the Eucharist or to shake hands, effective last Sunday.

Bishop Michael Burbridge’s request means that the passing of the peace — a time when worshippers stand to shake hands and hug one another — will not be offered during services.

During the Eucharist, parishioners will receive only the wafer and will not drink from the chalice. In western Canada, a similar edict went out from the archdiocese of Winnipeg, suggesting that people try bowing to one another instead of touching.

In Knoxville, Tenn., some churches have reported up to 25 percent of the congregation out sick — or staying home as a precaution against getting sick. In Asheville, St. Eugene’s Parish is telling parishioners to use their best judgment.

“If someone refrains from holding hands or shaking hands with you or receiving from the cup, please do not take it as an unfriendly gesture,” the Rev. Edward Sheridan wrote in a letter to members, adding that “it is entirely optional according to a personal preference.”

Many churches, including St. Eugene’s, are making bottles of hand sanitizer readily available. The church has asked those who distribute Communion to sanitize their hands after shaking hands and before the distribution of Communion. Until the danger of flu is over, St. Eugene’s will not offer Communion cups or allow hand-holding during school Masses.