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The Holy See
on Holy Communion

Mrs. 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.


Click to enlarge the letter



The Holy 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.

This faculty 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:

1.   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.)

2.   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).

3.   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 minister.

4.   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.

5.   Out of respect for the Eucharist, cleanliness of hands is expected, children need to be reminded of this.

6.   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).

7.   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 other.

These 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.

Those who 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.

From the Congregation of Divine Worship, 3 April, 1985.


+Augustin Mayer, O.S.B.
Titular Archbishop of Satriano

+Virgilio Noe
Titular Archbishop of Voncaria


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