BOLIVIA: Holy Communion from paper bags at papal mega-Mass?

For the most part, in recent times I have tuned out from the papal mega-Masses. However, I saw a report that at the mega-Mass in Bolivia, Holy Communion was distributed from paper bags.

I was ready to believe that, since the Holy Father had vested for Mass in – I’m not making this up – a Burger King (ironic symbol of Americanist imperialism and consumerism which promotes the eradication of the rain forest for the sake of corporate beef).


However, when I reviewed the video of the Mass, I found that they weren’t paper bags after all.  Watching the video, more carefully, the Blessed Sacrament was in some sort of bowl which was wrapped or covered with what looked like a cloth – perhaps paper – bag.

You can see clearly, if you are patient, that there is a container within the white material, with a rounded edge.





So, let’s not say that Holy Communion was distributed from paper bags, as if there were only paper bags, like pop corn.

Don’t get me wrong.  Do I like what they did?  No.  You might not want to watch the video of the distribution of Communion.  It was appalling.  These mega-Masses with Communion for all have to stop.


Moderation queue is ON.


Meanwhile… for those who are willing to think badly of Pope Francis no matter what… I am shocked that people didn’t react to the sight of His Holiness tending his BBQ on the balcony of St. Peter’s.  (source)



I mean… really.  You’ve got the gardens, Your Holiness.

Why not slide back der’, by Ben’s crib, yo? Feel me?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. anilwang says:

    Mega masses aren’t the problem. [Let’s not limit ourselves to thinking that there is only one problem.]

    The problem is the average Catholic now believes that if you go to mass, you *have* to receive communion….even if you’re in mortal sin (e.g. see the Synod), even if you haven’t gone to confession, even if it makes distributing communion result in sacrileges like this or the Neocatechumenal Way liturgical abuses.

  2. Dialogos says:

    Given this scene you described, father, and the well-known one from the Philippines, I wonder if those responsible for putting on the big gathering in Philly and other stops for the Pope’s upcoming visit have addressed the issue of distribution of the Holy Eucharist.

    [It is possible. They were using naked plastic cups this time! I don’t know what the containers in Bolivia were. They looked from one view as if they might have been glass, since light passed through the whole array in a couple shots. Perhaps time will tell.]

  3. Knittingfoole says:

    Do they offer confession sometime before the “Mega-Mass?” I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and guess that they probably do.

    [At many of these papal visits, I believe many confessors are organized. I could be wrong, but that is the impression I have.]

  4. Matt R says:

    The first step is restoring the traditional discipline(for us Latins) of Communion on the tongue kneeling and a longer fast before Holy Communion. Three hours prior to Mass sounds good, at least for morning masses. Eucharistic discipline at these large Masses would be much improved…I’m not sure that Mass without general Communion is viable anymore. So, do what my pastor does in the EF and what a priest friend did at an OF Mass where Communion was under one kind at the altar rail: ignore those with their hands out and place it on their tongues. The under the chin sends the message really quickly…OK, we don’t have anyone flailing like at papal Masses, but they need a good discipline for Holy Communion that is followed.

  5. Matt R says:

    Yes, confession is available before these Masses. In Rio, the Holy Father himself heard confessions.

  6. torch621 says:

    Perhaps, Father, they should just stop distributing communion at all at these papal Masses? Sometimes I think that might be the only solution.

  7. mburn16 says:

    “The problem is the average Catholic now believes that if you go to mass, you *have* to receive communion”

    Unless I am very much wrong, I believe the church teaches that it is highly desirable that the faithful participate in the sacrament at every mass (I could go further and say ‘every available opportunity’). If it is true – and it is – that the faithful derive spiritual benefits from participation in the sacrament, and if participation can be done in a sufficiently reverent way, then everyone who is in an acceptable state to receive should do so whenever they attend mass – including mass mass.

    If participation can NOT be done in a sufficiently reverent way, then THAT is the problem. Frankly I’m baffled that the people who organize such large successful events cannot organize a method of providing communion that does not involve paper bags, reach-over-the-heads-of-the-people-in-front, or body surfing Jesus.

  8. Robbie says:

    Mega Masses are one thing, but communion at them is another. I think it would be wise if communion was simply not administered to anyone but the Pope at these events.

    And by the way, I doubled over laughing at that photo of a barbecue at the Vatican! In times like these, a good laugh does everyone well.

  9. JKnott says:

    These have been very difficult days for the Bride of Christ. One thing after another.
    We have a new priest at our church who gave a wonderful homily at Mass today ( NO) where the reading was from Mt. 10′
    “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
    so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
    But beware of men,
    for they will hand you over to courts
    and scourge you in their synagogues,
    and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
    as a witness before them and the pagans.
    “You will be hated by all because of my name,
    but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
    When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.”

    Father said that VIRTUE is the one thing that will allow us to endure all of the above that our Lord is talking about, and more. The focus on that word and the meaning of virtue gave a sense of hope and it seemed like all of this stuff just paled in relation to the grace growing in virtue and of trying to become a saint.

  10. APX says:

    All I can think of is how many fragments were left in those cloths and getting lost. It’s as if people have completely forgotten why we use a corporal and why it’s folded and ironed the way it is to avoid the loss of fragments.

  11. Patti Day says:

    It seems like many, if told that Holy Communion would not be available, would see no point in attending Mass. Many already get miffed if the Precious Blood isn’t available at every Mass.

  12. Elizabeth M says:

    Your Holiness…I hope that is a fish burger on the BBQ?

    Seriously though, maybe at these Mega-Masses Communion should be distributed to only to priests, monks, nuns and someone could lead the lay faithful in a reciting of Spiritual Communion?

    I guess the organizers feel that if the Apostles could distribute fish & bread to 5000 it should be easy to do the same for many, many more.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    I think it depends on how things are organized on the ground. I believed that things were done in a more orderly and reverent way with Pope Benedict XVI and Msgr. Marini, who continues to oversee the planning of these liturgies…

  14. jbazchicago says:

    I agree alinwang. That is a huge problem. Spiritual Communions need to be rediscovered in my opinion.

    I was involved in the Papal Mass of Pope St. John Paul II to St. Louis in 1999. It wasn’t easy. We had 240,000 in attendance (I realize far less than this Mass). But Archbishop (now Card.) Rigali was smart enough to put young priests in charge of the Papal Visit, not older ones. Younger priests were more energetic and full of ideas. They asked what “CAN WE DO?” and not, “that’ll never work” or “that’s too much work”.

    So we had the archdiocese purchase 1,000 ciboria. They were the cheap stackable type, but they were gold plated on the inside. Several of us spent an entire week counting out 300 communion breads for each ciborium. We had the marching order, since the Holy Father was in his dotage already, still walking but limited, that we were given 25 minutes for Communion. Abp. Piero Marini was aghast and stunned when the response to his question, “how many will be receiving communion” he was told, everyone who wants to! We did it too.

    But if you do the math, there’s a lot of hosts left over. We had a system whereby we’d collect the ciboria from the priests (all priests, with lay-couples acting as escorts with umbrellas to indicate a communion station) combine them and stored them in a massive wood tabernacle that was made by a Kenrick seminarian. The tabernacle was set up in temporary adoration chapel in the basement of the TWA Dome (now Edward Jones Dome) where the Rams play. We had candles and flowers, and the all the contemplative orders of nuns in the archdiocese who were given permission to suspend papal enclosure for the event, kept adoration until the Holy Eucharist was distributed to parishes throughout the archdiocese and could keep the ciboria as a memento of the Papal Visit.

    With time and energy, it can be done beautifully and reverently, and with the right bishop. The next visit by Pope St. John Paul was to Baltimore…where they had large grey Rubbermaid garbage cans with a black cross spray painted on the side which acted as a ciborium. Compared to the paper bag, that looks pretty reverent now….
    (PS: I was a vowed religious back then and a proper acolyte)

  15. jacobi says:


    I have said elsewhere that we ought to check the veracity/authenticity of some of these reports, as clearly you have done.

    If/had they been true this would have been very serious.

    The point to come out of this, is that these large papal Masses have to stop. They are wide open to abuse. At the very least the distribution of Holy Communion in either kind, not part of the Mass as I understand it, has to stop.

  16. jacobi says:

    Sorry, further point re Communion.

    I would be happy to be corrected if I am wrong, and have asked this question more than once. The position of the Church is that we are required to receive Holy Communion once a year and that is still at Easter or thereabouts, whatever other suggestions or “earnest urgings” there may be??

    What’s more it is more, however frequently we receive, it is to be done, not out of routine, or vain glory, or from a desire for human respect, (nor I would add, social acceptance of a sinful or adulterous relationship), but to please God.
    We are required to be free from mortal sin with to intent never to commit such sins again.

    All quite simple really.

  17. Fr. Pius, OP says:

    It’s only fair that the sacristy was a Burger King, as apparently the Pope’s trip to Sarajevo was brought to you by McDonald’s:

  18. Matthew says:

    On the bright side, it looks as if it were priests, ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, who were distributing Communion rather than every Tom, Dick, and Mary who had the urge. [Alas, no. There were also lay people.]

  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear jacobi,

    that is correct. However, the rule for the Church’s distribution of Communion is not the bare minimum the faithful need to fulfil their legal requirements. Whenever there’s Mass and there are Catholics not hindered from receiving Communion by law or conscience, and they desire to receive It, let them do so. It is not that difficult, for those not in irregular situations, to resolve never to commit mortal sin again.

    NB: “not as a routine” means that the Sacrament is to be received with devotion, fully (but possibly briefly!) realizing what It is and setting an act of adoration. That’s it; we are not required to push us into an state of utter solemnity such as we can only manage once a month (though that is, of course, recommendable to those who do only Communicate once a month).

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Father Z.,

    I noticed that there is no longer a preview button. can any of the tech-savvy people reading the blog do anything to help with the blog troubles?

    The Chicken

  21. Fr. D. says:

    I was in Boston when Pope John Paul the Great visited the USA. By the time Mass started drizzle was falling on Boston Common. When we went to receive Holy Communion it was a downpour. Priests were given plastic bags to cover the open ciborium he was holding. The bag was placed completely over the ciborium so he had to reach up under and then into the ciborium for the next host. At the shrine in Fatima they have permanent covers on the ciboria and with a twist of the cross at the apex of the cover an opening permits the priest to pick up a Host in bad weather. On the subject of Confessions. Again, in Boston Common for St. JPtheG. Our parish had a group of parishioners to go down for the Mass. We got there about 11 am knowing that the Mass would not start until 5 pm. We brought sandwiches, etc and spread blankets on the Common for the afternoon. I needed to visit a little corner. There were about 20 chemical toilets placed back to back. When I exited a man asked me not to leave so I could heat his confession. I told him these were not confessionals. He was surprised. So I lead him a little further, close to the Porta-Potties where there was a large 55-gal. trash can and the only privacy I could find. When he left I looked up and there was a long line of people. I told them the “necessary places” were just beyond. NO!!! They all wanted to go to confession. I heard for 2 hours, standing, and very satisfied that the ministry of God’s forgiveness of sins was sought out by a large ground-swell of penitents. Of course, there have always been many laughs when I tell the story over again.

  22. SanSan says:

    Has anyone seen “Inside / Out” by Pixar? This post has me falling on my face like “sadness” does throughout the movie. Sigh, tears, heartbreaking, tremble, tremble………moan! Our Dear Lord…..such abuse!

    I will always be reverent to Our Lord’s “chosen” princes……even if they are bad.

    Dear Holy Father……………tending a BBQ on the balcony of St. Peters?????!!!!! Sigh, tears, hearbreaking, tremble, tremble……….moan!

    Please Dear Lord, a flood, a flood……locusts, something soon…….to watch the abuse toward You and Your Bride is tooooooo much! What can I do Lord to console You even a tiny bit?

  23. Lin says:

    About the grilling on the balcony……. What was that all about?

  24. Bosco says:

    Burger King? McDonald’s? Perhaps Pope Bergolio is wondering: “Where’s the beef!”

  25. I can’t speak to this particular Mass, but I can say that we recently had at our parish a visiting priest who had attended World Youth Day a few years before, and told a really lovely story about how he located a folding chair, a blanket (it was quite chilly there at night), a large piece of cardboard, and a marker and went to a field near where the Holy Father would later be saying Mass, and where a lot of youths were camping overnight. On the cardboard, he wrote, “Want to go to Confession? I understand English, Spanish, Italian and German, and want to hear yours!” in all those languages, and then propped it up in front of him. He sat down at about three in the afternoon, and aside from a bathroom break or two, didn’t *stop* hearing confessions until sometime fairly late the next morning, when he had to attend a meeting of some kind.
    He’s in his late 30s/early 40s, I’d guess. I admit it really made me smile to think of him sitting there all night, eschewing his warm bed and well-deserved rest in order to hear all those kids’ confessions. Clearly, that’s a priest made of the Right Stuff.

  26. Mary Jane says:

    At least the drapes they put up in the BK looked nice.

    Not sure how I feel about that photo of His Holiness grilling (oh, and that looks like some kind of a George Foreman, so he can’t possibly be grilling).

  27. Kathleen10 says:

    Once America had a president who regularly went on late night talk shows, or had flings with interns young enough to be his daughter, the office of the president was diminished. Acting like your office is no big deal, it’s a picnic and you can all wear shorts, diminishes things.
    There is an egalitarian ideal at work here, hence, barbecue photo ops, and I hope I am not being unfair. I was dismayed to read the Pope’s message to the people. It was long on liberation politics and very short on Gospel.
    The Holy Communion free for all at Holy Mass is a debacle. I understand the obsession to be “merciful” and all that, all for it, but why do priests and bishops not mind that Jesus is being received by people who may not even be Catholic? I know I have heard reminders before Holy Mass in the past, where people are informed that if they are not Catholic they cannot receive, etc. And what would be so wrong to remind people if they have not attended Mass in a while, they may receive but need to go to Confession? People should be reminded before any such event about the need for Confession in order to properly receive. I think many would follow it, but in our egalitarian pursuit, to some people that must sound unfriendly, and that is verboten. That the fear seems to take precedence over proper reception of Our Lord is shocking. But again, we seem to be seeing a relentless pursuit of other ideals.

  28. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear SanSan, Lin and MaryJane,
    don’t worry, the grilling story is from the satirical paper “The Onion” ;-)!

  29. jacobi says:



  30. acardnal says:

    Chicken, I can see the Preview button. [When our feathered commentator mentioned it, I reinstalled it. The last bout of blogwars was… complicated.]

  31. Veritatis Splendor says:

    This is Veritatis Splendor with your courtesy satire warning. The picture of Francis Barbecueing is from the Onion. It is a satire of The Holy Father’s perceived informality, and not something that actually happened.

  32. Sandy says:

    SanSan, you capture my feeling exactly! I haven’t seen the movie you mention, but the loss of reverence and awe in Our Lord’s presence is a knife in the heart. As I’ve said so many times, without totally giving away my age, I’ve seen the “before and after” and know what we have lost.

  33. Imrahil says:

    maybe at these Mega-Masses Communion should be distributed to only to priests, monks, nuns and someone could lead the lay faithful in a reciting of Spiritual Communion?

    That may be an idea worth thinking about (if afterwards, you organize little Communion services in all the chapels and even busses around). It would, however, fall under the precise definition of clericalism.

  34. robtbrown says:

    I assume the Pope grilling picture was photoshopped. [D’ya think?]

  35. Geoffrey says:


    Brilliant. You should write up something formal and send it to Msgr. Guido Marini. What you outlined should be the norm at all large Papal Masses!

  36. JerrytheYTPer says:

    I took a close look on the photo of him grilling and I have a feeling it was photoshopped. One must consider that this was originally found on The Onion, a website known for fake news. Also, upon close inspection, the meat on the spatula looked rather fake. I may be wrong, but I have seen enough photoshops to notice something here doesn’t look real. I doubt he would actually use the balcony since so much could easily go wrong with grilling there, such as staining the red cloth. I had never heard of grilling from a balcony.
    Regarding the “Mega-Mass” Eucharist, I am aware of how messed up it seems and I agree that something must be reformed. We must also remember that Popes before Francis celebrated these mega-Masses and likely, these Masses are not all ideal choices to them.
    I might be wrong on all of this, but I must also point out how I am not very experienced at this kind of thing (blog responding) and I might not know all the terms regarding Catholicism. If I get anything dead wrong, please let me know so I can learn. I apologize for the length of this response as I am rather wordy at times.

  37. Mary Jane says:

    Sigh. Yes, I know the photo of the Pope grilling is from The Onion, and I know it’s photoshopped. I don’t know how I feel about the photoshopped image. It seems disrespectful to me.

  38. VexillaRegis says:

    OR could this be the Holy Father testing his new gremiale? Aprons made of cotton fabric are much easier to wash than those of silk and can be used for cooking aswell :-)

  39. marcelus says:

    Man knows his BBQ.His from Argentina.Best meat in the world

  40. acardnal says:

    The source for the Pope grilling photo is The Onion …a satirical newspaper! Remember MAD magazine? It’s a joke folks.

  41. Well… I know that Pope Benedict is into BBQ. He came to the Sabine Farm after the Motu Proprio was released for some RnR.

  42. Elizabeth D says:

    Is that what happens to the blessed pallium lambs after they are sheared? :-*(

  43. Kathleen10 says:

    Hey, if it’s Photoshopped, I’m relieved, but I plead reasonable ignorance, since I have all but withdrawn from the culture and don’t read the Onion, although I remember some funny headlines from years past. I listen to Sirius radio in my car and only watch EWTN and TCM. With the way things are going the Holy Father grilling on the balcony doesn’t strike me as impossible. If the photo had a 30 pound catfish in there I might have caught it. What-evs. :)
    The stories in this thread were very amusing and interesting!

  44. SanSan says:

    OK Father Z…….should I take your blog seriously or not? If you put up a picture that you know is photoshopped, can you at least let us in on the gag………’s hard to assess what’s true and not true these days, that’s why I’m a monthly supporter of yours so that you will set us onto the narrow path. Sheeese!

  45. Suburbanbanshee says:

    SanSan – One of the typical blog forms of joke is to provide a bizarre statement and picture accompanied by a link. The idea is that you can mouseover the link to see it identified, or (if no mouseover is available to you) click on it and see where it’s from. Anything linked from “Eye of the Tiber” or “The Onion” is going to be satire.

    Of course, it’s also fun to link something strange-but-true that way, so you need to follow the link to find out from the source and “read it all,” as they say. Checking out the source is almost always a necessary step for any important news story, so it’s a good thing for Fr. Z to use jokes to remind us to check the news source!

    Re: megaMasses – National and international Eucharistic rallies used to be a thing, long before Papal visits, and nobody had trouble keeping things reverent back then. If organizers aren’t doing good enough crowd control for an orderly reception of the Eucharist, they’re also not organizing well enough to prevent people getting crushed or having other unpleasant things occur. It’s a dangerous level of laziness by the organizers; and apparently they don’t want to do any extra thinking work or inform priest and lay attendees of what’s expected.

  46. SanSan says:

    Suburbanbanshee thanks for the tutorial. I’m in the habit of researching all “news” before swallowing. I just didn’t realize that Father Z’s blog was another source where I needed to be on guard. Caught me off guard. I usually $upport those who help distribute the Truth straight on…….I thought Father Z was of that stripe. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

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