The Holy See
on Holy Communion
Cäcilia Pohl of Wuppertal, Germany, wrote a letter to the Holy See on
November 22, 2000 regarding her experience in a Catholic church in Korea
where she was refused to receive Communion on the tongue.
On June 30, 2001, the Holy See replied by sending Mrs. Pohl a
letter and a document issued by the Holy See on April 3, 1985 concerning
the mode of receiving Communion.
Subsequently, Mrs. Pohl has written to all the bishops in Korea
imploring them that all the priests in Korea adhere to the Holy See’s
guidance, as the communion in the hand has been a virtual requirement for
everyone in Korea for the past several decades.
to enlarge the letter
OF THE SACRED
CONGREGATION FOR THE DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS
ON COMMUNION IN THE HAND
COMMUNION IN THE HAND
See, since 1969, while maintaining the traditional manner of distributing
communion, has granted to those Episcopal Conferences that have requested
it, the faculty of distributing communion by placing the host in the hands
of the faithful.
is governed by the Instructions Memoriale Domini and Immensae
caritatis (29 May 1969: AAS 61, 1969, 541-546; 29 January 1973;
AAS 65, 1973, 264-271) and by the Ritual De sacra Communione
published 21 June 1973, n. 21. Nevertheless
it would seem to be opportune to draw attention to the following points:
Communion in the hand should show, as much as communion on the
tongue, due respect towards the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
For this reason emphasis should be laid, as was done by the Fathers
of the Church, upon the dignity of the gesture of the communicant.
Thus, the newly baptized at the end of the 4th century
were directed to stretch out both hands making “the left hand a throne
for the right hand, which receives the King” (Fifth mystagogical
cathechesis of Jerusalem, n. 21: PG 33, col. 1125, or Sources
chret., 126, p. 171; St. John Chrysostom, Homily 47: PG
63, col. 898, etc.) (In practice the opposite direction has to be given to
the faithful: the left hand is to be placed upon the right hand, so that
the sacred host can be conveyed to the mouth with the right hand.)
Again following the teaching of the Fathers, insistence is to be
laid upon the importance of the Amen said in response to the
formula of the minister “The Body of Christ”; this Amen is an
affirmation of faith: “Cum ergo petieris, dicit tibi sacerdos ‘Corpus
Christi’ et tu dicis ‘Amen’, hoc est ‘verum’; quod confitetur
lingua, teneat affectus” (St. Ambrose De Sacramentis, 4, 25: SC
25 bis, p. 116).
The communicant who has received the Eucharist in the hand is to
consume it before returning to his place, moving aside yet remaining
facing the altar in order to allow the person following to approach the
It is from the Church that the faithful receive the holy Eucharist,
which is communion in the Body of the Lord and in the Church; for this
reason the communicant should not take from the paten or container, as
would be done for ordinary bread, but the hands must be stretched out to
receive it from the minister of communion.
Out of respect for the Eucharist, cleanliness of hands is expected,
children need to be reminded of this.
It is necessary that the faithful receive sound catechesis in this
matter, and that insistence be laid upon the sentiments of adoration and
respect that are required towards this most holy sacrament (cf. Dominicae
cenae, n. 11). Care must
be taken that fragments of the consecrated host are not lost (cf.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2 May 1972: Prot. N. 89/71, in
Notitiae 1972, p. 227).
The faithful are not to be obliged to adopt the practice of
communion in the hand, each one is free to communicate in one way or the
norms and those indicated in the documents cited above are designed to
recall the duty of respect for the Eucharist and apply independently of
the way in which communion is received.
have the care of souls should insist not only upon the necessary
dispositions for the fruitful reception of communion, which in certain
instances demands recourse to the sacrament of Reconciliation, but also
upon an external attitude which conveys a sense of respect in general and
expresses in particular the belief of the faithful in the Eucharist.
Congregation of Divine Worship, 3 April, 1985.
Titular Archbishop of Satriano
Titular Archbishop of Voncaria