Polish bishops: Communion in the hand acceptable amid pandemic

Poland’s bishops attend a Oct. 5-6 plenary meeting in Łódź. Credit: episkopat.pl.

Poland’s bishops said Tuesday that Catholics who opt to receive Holy Communion in the hand during the pandemic “cannot be accused of disrespecting the Eucharist.” 

The bishops made the comment yesterday in a statement following their two-day plenary meeting in central Poland. 

“The bishops recalled that people who, for various reasons, wished to receive Holy Communion in their hands with faith and veneration, cannot be accused of disrespecting the Eucharist. The Holy See accepts this way of giving the faithful the Lord’s Body as worthy,” the statement said.

The bishops’ intervention came amid protests against Communion in the hand in Poland, where Catholics usually receive Communion on the tongue.

A lay Catholic group, the Fr. Piotr Skarga Association for Christian Culture, launched a campaign  called “Stop Communion in the hand.” The campaign, supported by banners displayed in Polish cities, argues that Communion on the tongue poses less risk of spreading the virus and is more dignified.

The association is also distributing a pamphlet criticizing Communion in the hand, entitled “In this Host is the living God,” a line from a well-known Polish hymn.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, touched on the debate over Communion during the coronavirus crisis in a letter to bishops issued Sept. 3.

While he did not specifically mention Communion in the hand, he affirmed that bishops can give temporary norms during the pandemic, in order to assure safe sacramental ministry. 

Bishops in the U.S. and other parts of the world have temporarily suspended distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue.

“In times of difficulty (e.g. wars, pandemics), bishops and episcopal conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed. Obedience safeguards the treasure entrusted to the Church. These measures given by the bishops and episcopal conferences expire when the situation returns to normal,” he wrote.

“A sure principle in order not to err is obedience. Obedience to the norms of the Church, obedience to the bishops.” 

At their plenary meeting, the Polish bishops discussed the pastoral challenges facing the Church amid the coronavirus crisis. The country reported a record daily total of 58 deaths from COVID-19 Oct. 6.

In their statement, the bishops stressed the importance of marriage and the family. They also said that they had approved a document on the formation of priests in Poland, which will be sent to the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

“Once again, the Pastors of the Church in Poland would like to thank everyone involved in the fight against coronavirus and for helping the sick and needy,” the text said. “In view of the increasing number of cases of illness, they ask for further help and increased prayer, especially in October — the month of praying the rosary.”

Source: CNA