CNS on the Communion kneeling at the Pope’s Corpus Christi Mass

This is in from CNS with my emphases and comments.

UPDATE: 23 May 1857 GMT

I looked through all the photos posted by Felici of all those receiving Holy Communion from the Holy Father.

I did not find a single person who received in the hand.

Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling may [Nota bene.] not be permanent change

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The four dozen people who received Communion from Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling.

Vatican officials said the gesture at the May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran does not mark a permanent change in papal liturgies, but highlighted the solemnity of the feast and a connection to Mass practices in the past.  [A few things. First, it is a present practice as well, not just a past practice. Also, why should something like this simply "highlight solemnity"?  Are other Masses less worthy?  And why is this called a "gesture"?  Is it being likened to an offhand things?  A hand full of dirt tossed in some group’s direction?]

As the pope prepared to distribute Communion, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar on the basilica steps. The chosen communicants — laypeople, nuns, seminarians, priests and boys and girls who had received their first Communion in their parishes in May — all knelt and received on the tongue.

Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand. The majority choose to receive on the tongue, but some reverently extend cradled hands to receive the Eucharist[In the video coverage I saw, I did not see anyone receive in the hand.  I didn’t see everyone, of course.  However, I looked through the photos posted on the site of Felici.  They shoot everyone.  Not a single person I could find received in the hand from the Holy Father.  So, I question the accuracy of this.]

In a brief e-mail to Catholic News Service May 23, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the decision "was a solution adopted for (the feast of) Corpus Domini," but as for the future, "we’ll see." [So this is an open question.]

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told CNS "there is no discussion" in the Vatican about insisting that those who receive Communion from the pope do so kneeling or that they receive it on the tongue rather than in their hands. [Although this would not strictly be an issue for the Congregation.  I think this would be more a question for the Office of Pontifical Ceremonies.]

In addition, he said, "there are no new norms coming" that would change the Vatican’s 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

"But the gesture of the Holy Father" at the May 22 Mass "is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact that we adore the Lord whom we receive" in the Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith said.  [And not just in "solemn" Masses.]

"It was a special occasion" because the feast focuses on Jesus truly present in the Eucharist, he said. "I hope this practice spreads."

In a preface to a January book about the beauty of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling, Archbishop Ranjith had said he thought it was time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said he did not think the May 22 Mass marked a permanent change; "according to current norms the faithful may receive in the hand while standing," he said.  [According to the current norms which are local norms.]

However, he said, the practice chosen for the special feast day was another example of what Msgr. Marini has said would be the practice at papal Masses, "alternating the old and new to indicate continuity with the past."  [This seems to be a policy statement.  There is a conscious effort being made to "alternate the old and new" to produce an effect?]

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of "kneeling before the Lord, adoration that begins at the Mass itself and accompanies the entire (Corpus Christi) procession" through the streets of Rome.

"To adore the body of Christ means to believe that there, in that piece of bread, there really is Christ who gives meaning to our lives," the pope said in his homily.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Marko says:

    Father, wouldn’t it be a good idea to make us all to actually write to mons. Marini’s office and tell them how happy we are having seen the “unthinkable”? Why not post an address, email or snail-mail?

  2. Geoffrey says:

    “In the video coverage I saw, I did not see anyone receive in the hand. I didn’t see everyone, of course.”

    I was watching pretty closely. No one extended their hands.

  3. Terry says:

    I think this is pretty funny. They came out super quickly with this, indicating a knowledge that this was going to be picked up by the blogs and examined. “Don’t panic” they seem to be saying.

  4. I agree Terry. Like the end of the world is around the corner because people receive Communion kneeling. What cowards.

  5. Tom says:

    “I hope this practice spreads.”

    Hmmm…I wonder how said practice could spread throughout the Latin Church?

    Oh, yeah…the Holy Father could simply restore the traditional practice in question throughout the Latin Church.

  6. Innocenti says:

    So, if this manner of receiving shows “in a BETTER way” the fact that we adore Him who is being received, and adds solemnity to the Feast of Corpus Christi, one can infer that this manner of receiving is more solemn ALWAYS, and shows in a better way EVERY DAY that we adore Him who is being received.

    Why do we continue to embrace a practice that clearly does away with the solemnity of communion and detracts from the fact that we adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? This idea to alternate is craziness. If you have to use the traditional form to show clearly what is objectively taking place, why continue to entertain the idea that the other manner is suitable?

    I love what the Holy Father is doing in bringing these traditional practices back into the public eye, but if it is just as a “museum piece”, what is the point? And if it is being done because he recognizes that these things need to be done to restore the traditional belief about the nature of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament, et al, why even continue the practices that have nearly destroyed this belief? Frustrating.

  7. Argent says:

    LOL! So they noticed. I’m sure there were gasps in certain quarters…”Oh, no, quick, get Marini on the line and ask him if it’s permanent!!” Reminds me of a Raid commercial.

  8. SMJ says:

    If you look at Fotografia Felici photos, everyone received communion on the tongue.

  9. roberta trew says:

    I watched people receive Holy Communion from the Pope while kneeling and it was most reverent, and I wish we could do the same.

    Reverence is NOT the word I would associate with Vatican Radio’s coverage yesterday. It was the WORST ever: when the commentator cut into the Lauda Sion AND the Anima Christi, I thought my head would explode. What is the MATTER with these people? Do they think they are reporting a sporting event? Awful awful awful.
    AND TWO commentators chatted during the entire Eucharistic procession! There was the Pope kneeling, adoring Christ in the Eucharist, hymns and prayers being said all along the route…they talked history, they commented on someone watching the procession while eating pizza! Like WHO CARES?! [I am sure that because it came from Vatican RADIO a certain amount of detail of what was going on needed to be supplied to listeners to the RADIO feed. Though I agree it is best sometimes simply to be quiet and hear the music, etc. – Fr. Z]
    This is a travesty, but liturgically and artistically.

  10. RichR says:

    If there’s something more reverent, the press feels like it has to mop up any damage (or perceived damage). If there are people chewing gum, wearing rainbow sashes, or receiving in the hand no one cares.

    If anything, this Pope is a maestro at forcing his detractors to play their hands in full view of the world. When their true colors shine, then there is no denying anything. I love him.

    Viva il Papa.

  11. Paul Waddington says:

    I would urge all readers who are priests to provide a pre-dieu in front of the sanctuary so that the faithful can receive Holy Communion kneeling.

    I would also urge all readers who are not priests to ask their parish priest to provide a pre-dieu at the front of the sanctuary, so that the faithful can receive Holy Communion kneeling.

    Of course, this is not necessary where communion rails are in place.

    Also, it is notable that the communion plate was used. We should all be asking questions if it is not used in our parishes.

  12. Joseph says:


  13. Franzjosf says:

    Two things:

    1. Who is Cindy Wooden? ‘reverently cradled in the hand’ refers to other papal Masses. But how does she know that every single communicant is reverent?

    2. The Passionist spokesman is not in a position to know the mind of the Holy Father on this, nor the discussions between him and Msgr. Marini. This article has several examples of ‘vatican-speak.’

  14. Jeremy says:

    “Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand. The majority choose to receive on the tongue, but some reverently extend cradled hands to receive the Eucharist. [In the video coverage I saw, I did not see anyone receive in the hand. I didn’t see everyone, of course.]”

    I take both sentences in this paragraph to be speaking of how things generally go at papal Masses. The point is to contrast against what happened yesterday.

  15. John says:

    It is highly unlikely Pope Benedict personally approves everything that happens at papal Masses. If he does do this, why was Archbishop Marini allowed to continue for over two years?

    This is why I am unsure about the whole “Marshall Plan” concept. Likewise, I think we may be seeing more of Msgr. Marini than Benedict in the planning of liturgies.

  16. Tom says:

    Pray for the Holy Father

  17. Franzjosf: 1. Who is Cindy Wooden? ‘reverently cradled in the hand’ refers to other papal Masses. But how does she know that every single communicant is reverent?

    I grant you that a gesture view by someone else can only be evaluated on the surface. 

    However, Cindy Wooden is a long-time Vatican Press Office insider who has good contacts and a nimble mind.  I know her from my time in the press corps.  She can be trusted to produced accurate quotations.

    2. The Passionist spokesman is not in a position to know the mind of the Holy Father on this, nor the discussions between him and Msgr. Marini. This article has several examples of ‘vatican-speak.’

    I also know Fr. Benedettini, who is number two at the Press Office.   He is a solid fellow who doesn’t say things without consideration. 

    Yes, there is Vaticanese involved here, and the story was not without its hints of preferences. 

    However, I think these folks, whom I know and have worked with, are better positioned to know what the thinking on the upper loggias is than perhaps you are situated to know what they know.


  18. Daniel Muller says:

    the Vatican’s 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

    1969 ? In the hand ?

  19. Mark Jacobson says:

    Let’s just ALL KNEEL for Communion at each and every Mass we go to, and explain to all who will listen why we do this and why it is proper and just to do so. We have the right… let’s exercise it, and maybe we can support the Pope with our actions and our words as well as with our prayers. Let’s take a stand (make that a “kneel”).

  20. mbd says:

    It appears that the Assistant M C used the upturned top of the ciborium instead of a communion plate or paten when assisting the Pope in the distribution of Communion. Surely the Basilica of St. John Lateran has the proper plate or paten for this purpose – or does it?

  21. Gustavo Ráez-Patiño says:

    Mark Jacobson,

    Excellent suggestion!

    John: “It is highly unlikely Pope Benedict personally approves everything that happens at papal Masses. If he does do this, why was Archbishop Marini allowed to continue for over two years?

    This is why I am unsure about the whole “Marshall Plan” concept. Likewise, I think we may be seeing more of Msgr. Marini than Benedict in the planning of liturgies.”

    That is exactly what I sometimes think. Why, then, the Papal Liturgies under Piero Marini and under Guido Marini look so different, with the same Pope? No. What we are seeing is not Benedict, but Guido Marini (applying some suggestions Card. Ratzinger made in the recent past). I would call it “Msgr. Marini’s Marshall Plan”.

    I even think that the Holy Father has stopped Don Guido’s plan at some aspects, as if he was telling him “Not so fast”. Remember the first ceremonies under Don Guido? Richer vestments, the great Leo XIII throne, cardinal-deacons, altar candlesticks equally spaced… Where are all these details now?

  22. mbd – this is not at all an uncommon practise. The cover of the ciborium is as much a sacred vessel as is a paten. A ciborium is the entire vessel including the cover and it is blessed as a whole so there is no irreverence.

  23. Fr. Bailey: Right. Also, the last person to receive is the sacristan, who then takes the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament to be treated in the proper manner, reposed or purified. Having the cover right there is practical. Also, since it is outside, something that shape would be very useful.

  24. JDB says:

    The Archbishop of Lima Peru forbid the reception of Holy Communion throughout his jurisdiction. Any bishop has the authority to do the same and respectfully decline the indult from Rome. We need bishops- the higher-ranking the better- to take the initiative and ban the practice in their dioceses.

  25. Maureen says:

    “The Archbishop of Lima Peru forbid the reception of Holy Communion throughout his jurisdiction.”

    You mean “in the hand”, one presumes. Unless the good archbishop has decided to excommunicate everyone in his see.

    Re: Guido and Benedict’s Excellent Adventure

    There’s a sort of oscillation that goes on. They add a few elements of oomph. Then they don’t use them, or as many of them, next time, to give worried people a chance to think everything’s gone back to normal. Then they bring back the element again and leave it out again, but gradually increase the presence of the “strange new thing”. People get used to it, and it seems normal or at least non-threatening.

    Then they add something else, and start the process again.

    Naturally, the MC would like everything to be done just so, and yesterday. But he can’t, without panicking a lot of people. The Pope is older at this Roman game of making haste slowly, and is using the same technique on a much broader field. Again, of course he’d love to make everything right immediately; but many of the flock entrusted to him would scatter. Like a good shepherd and a good sheepdog, Pope Benedict XVI and Mons. Marini keep the sheep moving… slowly and calmly… in the right direction.

    It may take a while, but they’ve got all the day God sends them.

  26. Geoffrey says:

    A directive from the Pope himself would be endlessly debated and circumvented (ala Summorum Pontificum). Recall the many ignored documents from the Congregation for Divine Worship? What His Holiness is doing is sowing the seeds. He is getting people talking. He will get priests and laity to rethink things. Patience. “Brick by brick”.

  27. Jane says:

    Rome has affirmed our right to kneel for Communion for quite a few years now (I have a letter from the Congregation of Divine Worship to prove it)- though that may be hard to believe from what goes on in most parish churches.

    Father Z, perhaps now would be a good time to display my letter on your site so it can be printed by those who wish to use it to support their right to kneel?

  28. Franzjosf says:

    “…than perhaps you are situated to know what they know.”

    Touche, Father, you’re right about my situation. And thanks for the diplomatique ‘perhaps.’

    My only point is that it is hard to reconcile Fr. Benedettini’s initial remark with that of Msgr. Marini. When this article first appeared it said that Msgr. Marini was unable to be reached for comment, at which time Fr. B’s remark sounded vaguely authoritative, emphasis on ‘vaguely.’ Later the article was updated by Msgr. M’s e-mail, saying ‘we’ll see’ about the future, which is quite different from, ‘…he did not think the May 22 Mass marked a permanent change.’ Maybe it sounds as if I’m splitting hairs, but I only mean that the thrust–not the precise words–of the two statements seem to point in different directions.

    In any case, the Holy Father, with able help from Msgr. Marini, is doing glorious things for the Church and her Sacred Liturgy.

  29. rcesq says:

    An incremental two steps forward one step back does seem to be the movement of changes in the papal ceremonies under Monsignor Marini. Note, for example, that no one seems to have blinked at the reappearance of the ombrellino in the Corpus Christi celebration, whereas it caused some comment when it was first re-introduced. And the copebearers at the Mass for the late Cardinal Gantin haven’t been mentioned at all. They’re now part of the customary scenery.

    Fr. Z is right, it’s “chip chip chip” rather than wielding the sledgehammers all at once. That was done with the introduction of the Novus Ordo and Pope Benedict is acutely aware how painful that upheaval was. We should not forget that for many people the Archbishop Marini approach to papal liturgies and tje Novus Ordo innovations in the parishes are all they know, and, bless ’em, are what they love. So introducing too many “novelties” — traditional elements — all at once could be as traumatic for them as the total elimination of those elements was for the faithful back in the late 60s and 70s. This is a matter of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Being considerate of their feelings. It’s sweet, and seems to be entirely in character for Papa Ratzinger.

  30. Coletta says:

    Do I understand this? They cannot forbid me to kneel to receive but they can forbid me to genuflect? The statement made in the document is that those who do other than bow are disruptive and doing it to call attention to themselves etc.

    I had the thought a while back that all the Eucharistic busybodies should be handed patens if they need to be involved. Take the Chalice away from them, Let us receive from Priests, and on our knees.

    So, what are my rights as regards continuing to genuflect and or kneel? I have only been bowing a few days and it makes me cry to do so. Please advise. Our Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florda looks much like that reference to Australia.

  31. Jason says:


    I agree that receiving Our Lord while kneeling is a more reverent way to do so, however, I think we’re all forgetting an even MORE important point.

    Receiving on the tongue is not only more reverent, it helps to avoid profaning the sacred species.

    I’ve witnessed teenagers (and others) twirling the host in their hands like a poker chip and trying to walk off with it. I know it is the responsibility of the priest (or EMHC, God forbid) to ensure the Host is consumed, but the priest is usually “busy” distributing to the express lane.

    One reason the Abp of Lima forbade receiving on the tongue is that some of his priest had found hosts laying on the floor in the pews after Mass!

    May we embrace our Catholic heritage and Tradition and return to saner times!

  32. As he always does so eloquently, the Holy Father shows pastors how they may handle Communion. That a kneeler would be brought in and placed before him during Communion takes away any argument that moveable kneelers are a “no-no”.

    There is another parish near me which used moveable kneelers which were put into place just before Communion. Like Assumption Grotto, intinction was used so Our Lord had to be received on the tongue. When they expanded the parish, they placed the kneelers in a more permanent place so they would not have to be moved around.

    I also wondered whether there is any chance that the Holy Father did make use of intinction. This would make it a given that the Host would have to be received on the tongue.

  33. EJ says:

    I frankly find laughable the comments doubting the Holy Father’s intentions regarding the rapid liturgical changes we’ve all witnessed during the past year. I don’t know what more people want, or how else the Pope could alleviate your paranoia. If he liberates the usus antiquior with a Motu Propio (a MOTU PROPIO people, look up what the term iteself means) – we get people wondering out loud whether the Pope is promoting the traditional Mass or not – and if he is, is he doing enough or not. When we get tangible, obvious and conspicuous changes to the liturgies of the Pope, we hear people wonder out loud if the Pope is in favor of them or not, if he is hindering what his own hand-picked new MC is trying to accomplish or not… REALLY folks, I don’t know if it’s paranoia, impatience, or ungratefulness – me thinks it’s a good melange of the three. I think that the Pope knows exactly what he’s doing and how to go about it. I agree with Fr. Z, his Marshall Plan is underway and it’s brick by brick, even if it’s not at the pace that everyone other than the Pope wants it to be. I like what Archbishop Sambi told Raymond Arroyo just prior to the Pope’s arrival in the USA – “don’t tell the Pope what to say or do, just listen first to what he says and does.”

  34. Sir H. Grattan says:

    I am confused, Father. This news-story is copyrighted by the USCCB.

    “Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
    This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.\”

  35. surge says:

    Our Holy Father has been the SOLE celebrant at all four Corpus Christi Masses he has offered outside the Lateran.
    This year the Italian “Frisini” Gloria, Apostles’ Creed and Santo were replaced by latin Gloria & Sanctus from the Missa de Angelis, and Credo III.
    Also this year was the first appearance for the seven large altar candles, possibly the first worthy ante-pendium, and the Papal throne was set up on high behind the Altar, rather than in plano beside it.

  36. Trey says:

    “they’ve got all the day God sends them”

    — Lovely … and hopeful.


  37. Trey says:

    Sir H. Grattan:

    Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement. From L.A. Times v. Free Republic, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5669 (C.D. Cal. 2000).

    The Fair Use Defense

    The fair use defense is a limitation on the exclusive right of a copyright owner “to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies.” 17 U.S.C. § 106(1). It is codified at 17 U.S.C. § 107, which provides:

    “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    — You have to look to what extent the use is transformative… comments added, and so forth. Also, whether or not the full text is nec. for the use being made.

    Clearly Father Z’s site is not a profit-making one, and the article is available for free, so I think there is a good argument that this qualifies… Anyway, ever heard of getting blood from a turnip? Why would someone sue a humble priest? Does Father have scads of money hidden away in those bird feeders of his???

    Anyway, I don’t think even a Bishops Conference would do this. What would they have to gain anyway? Are they short of bad press right now? Bored?

  38. Dove says:

    In our parish where we have a Latin Novus Ordo Mass in addition to the traditional Mass said by a priest of the Institute of Christ the King, I have noticed that recently in the NO Latin Mass the custom of receiving communion standing and in the hand has silently been replaced, without commentary, by communion on the tongue, kneeling at the communion rail. The change was very simple. The gates of the communion rail were closed by the altar boys and the priest gave communion to those who were kneeling. Many people have not quite gotten the hang of it–when to go to the communion rail, for example and sometimes the priest has to wait a second for someone to approach, but this will all be taken care of in time. I don’t know if the two English masses have also changed.

    But clearly the pastor has done this as a result of the Motu Proprio. In addition, the NO Latin Mass has become more reverent, the music is better, there is more Gregorian Chant. I asked our pastor if he would say the Traditional Mass and he said he could not because the Institute Priest was appointed by the Bishop for that purpose, but that if another parish asked him to say it, he would do so.

  39. Lucyna Maria says:

    This is such a relief and timely too, as yesterday during the homily, our new parish priest told us how disgusting he considered receiving on the tongue was. He talked about “licking fingers” and “you don’t know where that tongue has been” and how “unhygienic” receiving on the tongue was. Of course it was still our right to receive on the tongue, but he would strongly prefer that we receive on the hand. He then launched into an attack on our “private devotion” of genuflecting in line before receiving which he said he wanted stopped immediately, saying how it was dangerous and we could trip up elderly people. I was so horrified at the sermon and realised I could not show proper reverence to Our Lord while thinking about how disgusting the priest putting my host into my mouth would be – I did not go up to receive communion at all.

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