Communion in the hand - Ireland/Europe.

As far as I am aware it is not actually permitted, in Europe, for the laity to be receiving the Eucharist in the hand at Mass. Is this correct and if so could someone provide me with a Church document stating this?

I live in Ireland and it is the norm for people to receive in the hand, which grieves me, if it is against Church teaching.


It is permitted. I have received in the hand Spain and the Netherlands. for instance, and it’s very much the majority in the UK.

I don’t mean is it something that regularly happens; I know it is.
But I want to know has it actually been approved as a normal means for receiving communion in Europe? Does the Church have a teaching on this?

The history of the indult for communion in the hand is revealed through publications Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) and Notitiae (CDW):
*]South Africa, 3 February 1970
*]Canada, 12 February 1970
*]Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), 2 October 1971
*]Zambia, 11 March 1974
*]New Zealand, 24 April 1974
*]Australia, 26 September 1975
*]England and Wales, 6 March 1976
*]Papua and New Guinea, 28 April 1976
*]Ireland, 4 September 1976
*]Pakistan, 29 October 1976
*]United States, 17 June 1977
*]Scotland, 7 July 1977
*]Malaysia and Singapore, 3 October 1977

This except from the Nation Catholic Register is a good read on this topic:
Author: Mark Shea
Click on the link to see the entire post. This is how he answers the question:

There are several things worth noting here. The first is that sweeping judgments about the disbelief and pride of those who receive in the hand and touch the Host are woefully ignorant of the long and varied history of Eucharist piety in the Catholic Church. Such judgments spit on the grave of St. Tarcisius, a young acolyte who was martyred carrying the Eucharist to Christians in prison. It also overlooks all sorts of witnesses from the early centuries of the Church to the practice of receiving or carrying communion to others in the hand (see, for instance, the testimonies from ancient witnesses at this link). And, most of all, it overlooks the fact that Holy Church has–and has exercised–its authority to say that believers may, if they choose, receive communion in the hand reverently. Roma locuta est. Causa finita est. Rome has spoken. The matter is at an end.

Is it possible to receive in the hand irreverently? Of course. It’s also possible to receive on the tongue irreverently. If a person is determined to be irreverent, there is no limit to human inventiveness when it comes to sin and sacrilege and no sure fire way to guarantee that it will not happen by restricting communion to being received on the tongue. After all, some activist bent on making some blasphemous statement can just as easily spit the Eucharist out as mishandle it. But it would be foolish to declare that all those who receive on the tongue are therefore pridefully aiding and abetting such sacrilege. Same with my reader: she obviously receives reverently and does not deserve the judgement being meted out Catholics who regard themselves as more qualified than the Magisterium to decide who is and is not a faithful Catholic.

And that’s the real irony here. Sure, it’s good to be concerned about treating the Eucharist lightly and sacriligeously. But for Paul, one of the main ways we can insult the Eucharist is by treating brothers and sisters with contempt, particularly at the liturgy. So he has some rather choice words for the Christians at Corinth who humiliate fellow believers in 1 Cor 11:17-22. And that’s the key here. The reality is,the only pride at work in this conversation is that of Catholics passing judgement on people doing what Holy Church tells them they have perfect freedom to do. If you are settled in your heart that you are acting in reverence then do not let judgmental fellow Catholics disturb that peace. They have a perfect right to receive the Eucharist on the tongue according to their conscience and you have a perfect right to receive it in the hand according to yours. You have not judged them, but they have judged you. If they are really worried about things that insult the Eucharist, they should begin by looking in the mirror, not at the people they condemn without just cause. Read Romans 14 and apply it here. You’ve done nothing wrong.

As the indult is granted to an individual country via its episcopal conference, I don’t believe you will find any single document on this topic that applies to all of Europe.

The CDW granted France’s request for the indult on June 6, 1969. The text of the letter received by the French bishops’ conference confirming this can be found here (in French).

What makes you think it is not permitted in Europe? :confused:

In most countries there is an indult for receiving Holy Communion in the hand. That does not prevent one from receiving on the tongue as they are both licit.

I was in Rome two weeks ago and staying at the Benedictine abbey of Sant’Anselmo. Communion was received both in the hand or on the tongue according to individual preference.

If there’s been a mass abandonment of altar rails in Ireland/Europe like in America having no altar rail makes it very awkward to receive holy Communion on the tongue. I go to two different parishes, one with an altar rail and one without. When I’m at the one without an altar rail I receive holy Communion in the hand. But when I’m at the parish that has an altar rail I receive holy Communion on the tongue.

I like to receive on the tongue but worry it may fall out and the priest looks like he is trying to retrieve his car keys from a crocodiles mouth by the anxious look he has. :smiley:

That’s my point, too. Taking away the altar rail makes it seem as though we (at least those of us who aren’t short) have to receive holy Communion in the hand if we don’t want to risk it falling out of our mouth when the one trying to offer it to us is reaching up to our mouth. And if you try to drop to your knees while in line the fear is that the person behind will trip over you. But when there’s an altar rail the holy Communion host more naturally goes on the tongue.

I was received into the Church in 1969 and always have received in the hand.

The practice began without approval from Rome. The conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States made a request to Rome in 1973 and it was approved in 1977.

The May 29, 1969 Memoriale Domini of Pope Paul VI has:
“Indeed, in certain communities and in certain places this practice has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See, and, at times, without any attempt to prepare the faithful adequately.”

I think whoever came up with the idea to take away the altar rails was trying to make it physically awkward to receive HC on the tongue so that people would feel forced to receive it in the hand.

I was taught to receive in the hand but only started receiving on the tongue when I had a baby in my arms.

What would happen if one was dropped on the floor by mistake?

Here are some answers to that that I found:

What to do when the sacred host is dropped?
What are the guidelines for alerting a priest of a dropped host?
What happens when the Communion host is dropped?
Dropped host - what to do?

We received kneeling at the rail, and then later changed to standing, but did not use in the hand. Standing was helpful for large congregations. The rail can be an obstacle with distribution under both species or by more than one minister.

Eucharisticum Mysterium May, 25, 1967. Item 34, has[FONT=&quot] the established ways to receive:[/FONT]The Way of Receiving Communion

  1. a. In accordance with the custom of the Church, the faithful may receive communion either kneeling or standing. One or the other practice is to be chosen according to the norms laid down by the conference of bishops and in view of the various circumstances, above all the arrangement of the churches and the number of the communicants. The faithful should willingly follow the manner of reception indicated by the pastors so that communion may truly be a sign of familial union among those who share in the same table of the Lord.

b. When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence toward the most holy sacrament is required, because the kneeling itself expresses adoration.

When they receive communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, approaching in line, they make a sign of reverence before receiving the sacrament. This should be done at a designated moment and place, so as not to interfere with the coming and going of the other communicants.

I’ve received the eucharist on the hand without difficulty in quite a few places in Europe including St Peter’s basilica and square (the latter being a Papal mass). While my personal preference is to receive on the hand, I know several people who receive on the tongue and, as an EMHC, have distributed communion to people both in the hand and on the tongue. In most places, there are no altar rails but I have not seen this cause those who receive on the tongue any difficulties.

That said, I can relate to Nelka’s comment about the priest looking like he’s trying to retrieve his keys from a crocodile’s mouth - sometimes I probably have the same look! Some friendly advice: if you’re receiving on the tongue (as is your right) make this clear to the priest / deacon / EMHC - as they say “the Body of Christ” (or even just before) open your mouth fairly wide and place your tongue so its sitting on your lower lip slightly out of your mouth. This means that they can comfortably place the host on your tongue (where it normally sticks to the moist surface) without worrying about whether they’re going to end up with saliva on their fingers or whether their fingers will be bitten off! If you’re tall (or taller than the person distributing communion then bend your knees slightly - otherwise distributing the eucharist can feel like trying to shoot a puck into a goal.

But holy Communion doesn’t have to be given to the congregation under both kinds. The only one who has to receive it under both kinds is the priest celebrant. The parish I attend has an altar rail, and we receive the sacred host alone (which is still receiving both the body and the blood of Christ). It always goes smoothly even though we have a large building and a large number of people every Sunday. And it’s more natural to receive holy Communion on the tongue this way than to try to receive it in the hand when I’m kneeling at an altar rail. If the altar rail is taken away or holy Communion is given to the congregation under both kinds then that’s when standing and receiving holy Communion in the hand feels more natural.

Since it is what I was accustomed to from the early days, kneeling or standing reception, on the tongue, seem natural to me.

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