Government commends emergency work of Diocese of Lancaster

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Bishop PatrickBishop Patrick O'Donoghue welcomed the publication of Faith Communities and Pandemic Flu: Guidance for faith communities and local influenza pandemic committees on the 17 June by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The booklet produced by the Faith Communities' Consultative Council for the Department of Communities draws on the ground breaking work undertaken by Deacon Nick Donnelly, Diocese of Lancaster, and Mr Jim McManus, Director of Health Improvement, Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust.

In the section 'Sources of help and support' the government booklet recommends two documents produced by the Diocese of Lancaster as part of the diocese's emergency planning protocols ­ Pastoral Planning for a Flu Pandemic and A Checklist for Dioceses on Pandemic 'Flu Preparation.

Interest has been shown by Catholic and non Catholic dioceses around the world, particularly the USA, in the work undertaken by the Diocese of Lancaster in putting plans in place to prepare the Church for the pastoral and healthcare challenges posed by a flu pandemic.

The booklet estimates that in the event of a flu pandemic, anywhere between 15 million and 30 million people could become ill. Of these between 55,000 and 750, 000 could die in a worst case scenario.

The booklet provides advice on how to stop infections in our faith communities, recognising that large public gatherings for public worship are 'an ideal opportunity for influenza to spread if people do not properly follow simple prevention measures'. It goes on to provide guidance about Holy Communion, sharing sacred vessels and sacred books, home visiting and anointing of the sick.

Furthermore, it provides guidance about dealing with those who have died, outlining what may be possible and what may not be possible regarding religious services during a flu pandemic. There is also a useful checklist for faith communities.

Bishop Patrick made the following comment: 'It is gratifying that the Government has recognised the work done by my diocese in this important area of emergency planning. I congratulate Deacon Nick Donnelly and Mr Jim McManus for their foresight and innovative work in preparing the Church to care for the sick and dying during a possible flu pandemic. While praying that these plans are never used, it is prudent for all of us in positions of authority to take the threat of a flu pandemic seriously'.

Deacon Nick Donnelly also made the following comment: 'In March 2008 the Prime Minster, Gordon Brown, stated that the greatest security threat to the United Kingdom was not terrorism or climate change, but the ever present threat of a flu pandemic. What is good about Faith Communities and Pandemic Flu is that it recognises for the first time the important role that faith communities could play in saving the lives of others during a pandemic.'

Source: Diocese of Lancaster

© Independent Catholic News 2008