Lutheran bishop’s reception of communion in Vatican was mistake, says Finnish Catholic spokesman

Lutheran bishop’s reception of communion in Vatican was mistake, says Finnish Catholic spokesman

[Who’s to blame? Proximately, the Catholic priest who insisted the Lutherans receive despite their following the protocol for signalling a desire to receive a blessing rather than Communion from the priest; ultimately, FrankenPope’s “Let your conscience be your guide”-type answer to the Lutheran woman who asked him if she could receive Communion with her Catholic husband at Mass]

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

January 26, 2016 ( ) – A spokesman for the Catholic diocese of Helsinki says that the recent case of a Finnish Lutheran bishop receiving communion in the Vatican was a mistake, and that the rules regarding the reception of the Eucharist in Catholic churches remains the same.

“Only members of the Catholic Church in the state of grace may receive the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion,” writes Marko Tervaportti of the Catholic Information Center, an arm of the Catholic diocese of Helsinki.

Tervaportti called the incident an “error that occurred in the distribution of communion,” and stated that if communion is offered to Lutherans, “it is because of the ignorance of the minister of the Eucharist and it can still be politely refused.”

He also rejected the claim by the Lutheran bishop, Samuel Salmi, that this act represented a “new attitude” on the part of the Vatican.

“Contrary to Samuel Salmi’s speculation, it is useless to draw the conclusion that the Vatican has a ‘new ecumenical attitude’ based on the occurrence of an error that occurred in the distribution of communion,” wrote Tervaportti. “The doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church with regard for whom it is possible to receive Holy Communion has not changed in recent years and decades. If it does change, it will not happen ‘in the field,’ but through an alteration of Church law and additions to teachings regarding the sacraments of the Catholic Church.”

See a translation of the Helsinki diocese’s full statement here.

Tervaportti acknowledged that “there are some very special exceptions” to the rule of only Catholics receiving communion, “but nonetheless to receive the Eucharist one must accept the Catholic doctrine regarding it and to be eligible to receive this holy sacrament (for example, living in a relationship other than a true Christian sacramental marriage is an obstacle).”

Lutherans are among those groups not regarded as holding the Catholic faith on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and therefore ineligible to receive Holy Communion.

As LifeSiteNews reported on Thursday, Bishop Salmi recently told the Finnish news agency Kotimaa 24 that he had received Holy Communion in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 15, while he was present as the head of a delegation that included a Lutheran choir that was to perform there. Salmi said that he had also been received by the pope during the visit.

Salmi told Kotimaa 24 that the choir had been permitted to perform during the mass at the basilica, and that everyone was aware that Lutherans were present. Despite this fact and the fact that the Lutheran attendees placed their hands on their left shoulders in a sign that they were not to receive communion, the Catholic priests insisted on giving it to them. “I myself accepted it,” he said.

“At the root of this there is, without a doubt, the ecumenical attitude of a new Vatican,” Salmi told Kotimaa 24. “The pope was not here at the mass, but his strategic intention is to carry out a mission of love and unity. There are also theological adversaries in the Vatican, for which reason it is difficult to assess how much he can say, but he can permit practical gestures.”

The pope’s own words regarding communion for Lutherans have added to the confusion. Last year, when asked by a Lutheran woman about the possibility of receiving communion with her Catholic husband, Francis acknowledged that “explanations and interpretations” of communion may differ between Catholics and Lutherans, but “life is bigger than explanations and interpretations.” He advised the woman to “Talk to the Lord and then go forward.” Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, later affirmed the Church’s traditional teaching on intercommunion.

‘Ecumenical mass’ also incorrect, says Helsinki diocese

The Diocese of Helsinki also clarified that the claim made in the Kotimaa article of an “ecumenical mass” celebrated by both Lutherans and Catholics in the Vatican on January 18 is also incorrect.

“The article also mentioned that during the ecumenical visit to Rome, the Bishops of Helsinki Teemu Sippo SCJ, (Orthodox Bishop) Ambrosius and (Lutheran Bishop) Irja Askola had ‘celebrated’ an ‘ecumenical mass’ together for the feast day of St. Henry (of Uppsala),” wrote Tervaportti. “This is not so. Every other year there is a Catholic mass in which representatives of other churches participate in ecumenical spirit—for example, by preaching. In every other year it is a Lutheran Lord’s Supper, where either a Catholic bishop or priest will preach. The service therefore always follows that church’s own tradition and practice. It is notable that even in these masses the painful fact that there is no communion between the churches is mutually respected.”

Canon 844 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law only permits the Eucharist to be given to Catholics in the state of grace (that is, not in a state of grave sin), except in cases of non-Catholics who request communion and who are from churches that are approved by the Holy See as holding the same faith as Catholics regarding communion. Lutherans have traditionally been seen as not holding to the same faith as Catholics on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

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2 comments on “Lutheran bishop’s reception of communion in Vatican was mistake, says Finnish Catholic spokesman

  1. In the Cathedral where I worship, I know from conversations with Acolytes and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, that at every mass, lots of visitors line up for Holy Communion who are obviously, from their actions, not Catholics.
    There is a tiny notice in the parish bulletin, warning that only communicant Catholics should receive Communion, however, this notice is tiny and was only ever announced out from the lectern by a priest once. The priest was reprimanded after by the Cardinal ( a supposed conservative) for being uncharitable.
    So much for the Church guarding the Blessed Sacrament from blasphemy sacrilegious reception.

  2. I notice that my choice of words has been disputed. I said that the Church was not guarding the Blessed Sacrament from blasphemy. This was changed to “sacrilegious reception”.
    Point taken.
    However, from my observations of the numerous visitors, tourists, occasional Catholics etc. at the Cathedral who carelessly go up to receive Holy Communion with no regard for either their own state of grace or for the reality of the God they are receiving under the appearance of Bread, I do not think the word blasphemy is too strong. And certainly from an objective point, and that was the main point I was trying to make, the Church itself knows the reality of Who is contained in Holy Communion, so I think for the Church to allow the reception of Holy Communion to have degenerated like it has so that virtually anyone can receive, in any state, or lack of state, of grace is to me blasphemy.

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