The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Pope: “I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand…”

0629-MASS-8B.jpg Another nugget from the new book of interviews with Benedict:

Pope Benedict has said in a new book that he is not opposed to the practice of receiving Communion in the hand. However he goes on to explain that he wants to encourage the reception of Communion on the tongue, kneeling, out of respect for the Real Presence in the Sacrament.


In a long interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, which is being published in a new book: ‘Light of the World’, out this Tuesday, the Holy Father says: “I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself.”

But, he explains: “The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of Mass events we hold at Saint Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir.

“In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive Communion — everyone else is going up, so I will, too–I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear: Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention!

Comments read comments(11)
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Ruth Ann

posted November 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm

He has a good point, and I’m glad the Holy Father explained his thinking.

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Eugene Pagano

posted November 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm

A comparative note. In my Episcopal church (and others I’ve attended), we kneel for Communion, but receive it in the hand.

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posted November 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm

He as much as said the same thing in one of his earlier books with Seewald.
I can never understand why people always freak out over Benedict’s action ands impute all sorts of distorted reasons for why he does what he does. It usually says more about the commenter than the pope.
John Allen says
“A second theme running through the book is a sort of exasperation from the Pope about how his words or gestures are often over-interpreted, with their significance stretched well beyond his actual intent.”
Benedict is ALWAYS teaching by his actions. It helps to read his words in full before making judgements and assumptions. His proven wisdom and love for the church deserve respect and should inspire confidence in his leadership.

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posted November 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm

It is time that there be some “attendants” standing next to the priest, Eucharistic ministers, Deacons, and altar server during the distribution of Communion to make sure that when one takes Communion in the hand they immediately visibly eat it. Or else forcibly taken away. This is particularly so in large urban cosmopolitan areas.
Could be by Knights of Columbus or other groups.

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posted November 21, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Eagerly awaiting avalanche of news stories announcing pope calling for greater respect for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Not holding breath.
It’s interesting that the Holy Father talks about his preference for communicants to receive kneeling. In my former parish, a few years ago, the pastor announced from the ambo that receiving on the knees was strictly forbidden. His successor would insist that, if someone knelt to receive, that person needed to stand before he would give communion. Apparently, some priests have decided to deny communicants this legitimate option, for what reason I don’t know.
A couple of years ago, I decided to start receiving on the tongue, standing, as a way of showing greater respect and in response to the many abuses against the Eucharist by internet bloggers seeking their fifteen minutes by slamming the Church. I don’t push it on my wife or kids, but they know that’s how I receive.

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posted November 22, 2010 at 2:55 am

Like BobRN, I recall in the mid 1970’s being told that kneeling would be discouraged as it was hazardous for those behind you who might trip, and that all would receive communion in hand. I didn’t really recognize, owing to my age, the significance of the change. I am glad to see the Pope taking a stance. As the sudden embracing of Islam by many in the US in recent years shows, people are attracted to a religion with firm teachings that demand respect. They are not attracted to wishy-washiness. God bless the true Catholic Church.

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F C Bauerschmidt

posted November 22, 2010 at 8:50 am

I imagine on some blogs the Pope’s allowance of communion in the hand will generate far more dismay than his allowance of condoms.

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posted November 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Personally, I would rather receive the wafer in my hand. I really wouldn’t want anyone putting their fingers in my mouth. There is enough illness about without taking a chance the priest or his helpers might be carrying little germs. When I took communion, the minister didn’t put the bread in my mouth, I did, and the wine was in small, small glasses, which we picked up from a tray, to drink. Much more sanitary, actually. The meaning and significance is the same…no matter how delivered. As to kneeling, we knelt at the alter rail, to take communion.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 8:35 pm

As far as people needing to be standing next to the Pope or Priests while giving Communion, most churches used to have or use alter boys. They carried a sort of round gold plate to capture the host just in case it fell. But I guess the numbers of alter boys dwindled or their work orders changed they had to do as they were told.
I really needed an alter boy holding one of those ‘plates’ one Sunday when the Host was accidentally dropped in my heavy cleavage! I wanted to die and so did the Priest. The alter boys were almost in hysterics and the church was wondering what was going on. If only they had known I think there would have been a wave of laughter, even if it was during a holy action.
I definetely think kneeling to receive Holy Communion is a much more reverant way of receiving communion. I also like to receive it by mouth. Unfortuately today with all the disease, I have at times, in flu season, received it in my hands. BTW, Does anyone know in which manner the RC received during the Middle ages and the plagues? Thanks

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Deacon Norb

posted December 10, 2010 at 4:55 am

Christina: FYI
–Prior to about 1900, laity receiving communion was a rarity. In fact, an annual confession/communion rule still is in Roman Catholic Canon Law and that is a legislative relic which reflects the fact that — in the Medieval era — most everyday laity would not receive Holy Communion for years.
–When the plague swept through England in the mid 1300’s, the clergy were one of the hardest hit social classes. This is fairly understandable since they were expected to minister to the sick and dying. I have read reports that suggest during the plague in the Diocese of Hereford in England, certain parishes had new pastors every six weeks or so. In fact, formation of priestly candidates was sharply shortened to allow for ordination of more and more, quicker and quicker.
–Then, clergy also presided at very abbreviated funeral ceremonies since civil authorities banned large assemblies of people. The local pastor may have been the only other person there as the laborers closed up the large ditches used for massed graves.

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