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On sharing the Eucharist.

London--In September the Catholic bishops issued an uncompromising document on sharing Communion with other Churches in an attempt to halt an increasingly casual attitude in English parishes.

The bishops of Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales released an 80-page report, One Bread One Body, after it became apparent that both priests and laity were bending the rules of the Eucharist.

The Prime Minister of Britain is one of many Anglicans who has regularly received Communion at Catholic Masses despite the Church's rule that this should be allowed only in circumstances of "grave and pressing need."

The bishops have sought to toughen discipline by declaring that priests must consult their bishop before agreeing to give Holy Communion to a non-Catholic unless he or she is in danger of death.

Speaking at a conference at his residence in Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume said: "There can be no indiscriminate sharing of the Eucharist."

The Cardinal sought to defend the document against charges of being restrictive and hard-line, saying the teaching was intended to inspire reverence towards the Eucharist: "One of the dangers we are experiencing is a lack of reverence among Catholics for the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist."

This document rules out the increasing practice of married couples, where one is a non-Catholic, receiving Communion together regularly. The bishops rule that Communion may be given to a non-Catholic spouse only on a "unique occasion for joy or for sorrow" such as at First Communion, marriage, or a funeral. However, they acknowledge that such a strict rule causes "a deep sadness" to couples when they are divided at "the most sacred moment of unity."

The document is even stricter on Catholics, forbidding them to receive sacraments from any minister connected with a Church "rooted in the Reformation" even when there is no Catholic priest available. It also repeats the law against Catholics who have been divorced and remarried receiving the Sacraments in the Catholic Church.

The document points out that the Eucharist is the heart and summit of the Church's life, but it says the "sacrificial" understanding of the Eucharist needs renewed emphasis, even among Catholics. It says that, in some Catholic circles, there appears to be a confusion between the celebration of Mass, on the one hand, and a communion service (or celebration of the Word and Communion), on the other.

"Priests and other Catholic ministers should issue neither general nor specific invitations to other Christians to receive Holy Communion," although those who ask to receive Communion should be treated kindly and sensitively, even when their request cannot be granted.

The bishops also called for the renewal of periods of Exposition, Benediction, and personal visits for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Nov 1, 1998
Previous Article:(Girolamo) Savonarola: a saint after all?
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