EN REPONSE A LA DEMANDE
Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship
Letter to presidents of those conferences of bishops petitioning the indult for communion in the hand, 29 May 1969: AAS 61 (1969) 546-47 (French).
In reply to the request of your conference of bishops regarding permission to give communion by placing the host on the hand of the faithful, I wish to communicate the following.
Pope Paul VI calls attention to the purpose of the instruction "Memoriale Domini" of 29 May, 1969, on retaining the traditional practice in use. At the same time he has taken into account the reasons given to support your request and the outcome of the vote taken on this matter. The Pope grants that throughout the territory of your conference, each bishop may, according to his prudent judgment and conscience, authorize the introduction in his diocese of the new rite for giving communion. The condition is the complete avoidance of any cause for the faithful to be shocked and of any danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist.
The following norms must therefore be respected:
1. The new manner of giving communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice. It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted every one of the faithful have the option of receiving communion on the tongue and even when other persons are receiving communion in the hand. The two ways of receiving communion can without question take place during the same liturgical service. There is a twofold purpose here: that none will find in the new rite anything disturbing to personal devotion toward the Eucharist; that this sacrament, the source and cause of unity by its very nature, will not become an occasion of discord between members of the faithful.
2. The rite of communion in the hand must not be put into practice indiscriminately. Since the question involves human attitudes, this mode of communion is bound up with the perceptiveness and preparation of the one receiving. It is advisable, therefore, that the rite be introduced gradually and in the beginning, within small, better prepared groups and in favourable settings. Above all it is necessary to have the introduction of the rite preceded by an effective catechesis, so that the people will clearly understand the meaning of receiving in the hand and will practice it with the reverence owed to the sacrament. This catechesis must succeed in excluding any suggestion that in the mind of the Church there is a lessening of faith in the Eucharistic presence and in excluding as well any danger or hint of danger of profaning the Eucharist.
3. The option offered to the faithful of receiving the Eucharistic bread in their hand and putting it in their own mouth must not turn out to be the occasion for regarding it as ordinary bread or as just another religious article. Instead this option must increase in them a consciousness of the dignity of the members of Christ's Mystical Body, into which they are incorporated by Baptism and by the grace of the Eucharist. It must also increase their faith in the sublime reality of the Lord's Body and Blood, which they touch with their hand. Their attitude of reverence must measure up to what they are doing.
4. As to the way to carry out the new rite: one possible model is the traditional usage, which expresses the ministerial functions, by having the priest or deacon place the host in the hand of the communicant. Alternatively, it is permissible to adopt a simpler procedure, namely, allowing the faithful themselves to take the host from the ciborium or paten. The faithful should consume the host before returning to their place; the minister's part will be brought out by use of the usual formulary, "The Body of Christ," to which the communicant replies: "Amen."
5. Whatever procedure is adopted, care must be taken not to allow particles of the Eucharistic Bread to fall or be scattered. Care must also be taken that the communicants have clean hands and that their comportment is becoming and in keeping with the practices of the different peoples.
6. In the case of communion under both kinds by way of intinction, it is never permitted to place on the hand of the communicant the host that has been dipped in the Lord's Blood.
7. Bishops allowing introduction of the new way of receiving communion are requested to send this congregation after six months a report on the result of its concession.