What Did Pope John Paul II Believe?

July 18, 2008

Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae 11:

“In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of Communion in the hand has been authorized. It is therefore difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention the sad phenomena previously referred to. This is in no way meant to refer to those who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reverence and devotion, in those countries where this practice has been authorized.”

Pope John II: He only gave Holy Communion on tongue during private Masses in the Vatican. Concelebrating priests were told to do the same. Pope John Paul II said, “I do not revoke what one of my predecessors has said about this… … here, my dear priests and my dear brothers and sisters, only Communion on the tongue and kneeling is allowed. I say this to you as your bishop!” (Sermon, March 1, 1989, Church of SS. Nome Di Maria)

When the wife of the President of France, Madame Giscard d’Estaing came before the Holy Father with outstretched hands, Pope John Paul II placed the host in her mouth. (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, March 1997 pg 24). He did likewise for a canon lawyer who was present at the 1981 Papal Mass in Chicago.

Pope John Paul II wrote, “To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to meet a just need, but always after an adequate preparation.” (Dominicae Cenae, 1980, end of paragraph 11). Thus, Pope John Paul II is acknowledging laypeople may touch the Holy Eucharist in a situation of “just need” but only after “adequate preparation”. Yet, he does start by affirming that the distribution of Holy Communion is reserved principally to the ordained.