Doctors Say Communion Could Bring Health Risks

OMAHA (KPTM)- Communion is a sacred act of the Christian faith. In most Catholic churches, people will drink from one chalice. However, doctors said people should be cautious when drinking from the Holy cup, especially during this cold and flu season.

"There's a lot of things that people can shed. And so, if you're using a common cup, it makes sense that some of those things could be transmitted, potentially from person to person," said Dr. Mark Rupp of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Sacred Heart Parish in Omaha uses one chalice per mass. Pastoral Associate Joyce Glenn said most people who are sick know to use common sense.

"They normally do not take from the cup and drink so that they do not pass germs. I know I've done that in the past and the parishioners here have done that," said Glenn.

How it works: once someone drinks from the chalice it's given back to a minister to wipe off. The minister will then rotate the cup. This is common procedure in most catholic churches, but doctors may not find this method useful.

"By taking the cup, wiping it and sort of moving it to a different spot, you can decrease that risk, but you're clearly not going to get rid of it all together," said Dr. Rupp.

Every weekend here at Sacred Heart, nearly 800 people take part in the Holy communion. They all drink from one chalice just as it was done in the Last Supper.

"It's how we believe the scriptures have taught us and we just repeat what happened at the last supper--when he took the cup and gave the blessing and then gave it to his apostles," said Glenn.

Sacred Heart may never give up its sacred ritual, but that won't stop doctors from having germ-free ideas of their own.

"Most of that can be completely abrogated by giving people just a little individual serving cup," said Dr. Rupp.

Sacred Heart cleans and sterilizes every used chalice after every mass. The congregation has not had any illness spread from communion thus far.

Doctors recommend those who do have a cold or the flu to not drink from the communal cup. Glenn said people can still take part in the blessing by just eating the host.