Kneeling to receive communion from pope because he is short?

During the Vatican Radio broadcast of the Easter Sunday Mass (which was also used by EWTN), Cardinal John Patrick Foley commenting said that the reason that people always receive communion from the pope kneeling is because he is short and thus makes it easier for him to distribute communion! Other commentators use to emphasize that the pope wants to show that receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue is the norm of the Church and that receiving standing and in the hand is an indult. This is the first time I’ve heard that the reason for the kneeling is just because the pope is short. Have you heard anything more about this?

I guess they need to make up some other reason because they don’t care for the first.

Actually I never heard it but I have thought it. I recall several times when watching the Pope distribute communion before it was changed to kneeling, that he dropped the host when distributing to those receiving on the tongue. It happened several times and at least twice it was not caught by a paten. While I can’t say that is the reason he made the change, I did think of it when he went to kneeling.

I know we have a few men who receive on the tongue and it is difficult to reach their mouth at times. One man always sort of squats down so that the priest or EMHC can reach his mouth easily.

Fr. Z comments on this at WTDPRS, including a link to the explanation that was originally given. IOW, the “too short” explanation doesn’t hold water.

I don’t think this is true, cause I heard about some people close to the Pope - like the prefect of liturgical worship - expressed a liking for reception of Communion on the tongue, while kneeling… and many think this is what the Pope supports as well.

Is this right? I know that receiving in the hand is by local indult but I did not know that recieving standing was by indult?

Yes, standing is the indult In fact, when standing was approved, it was only on the condition that kneeling would still be retained.

I was up very early on Easter Sunday tending to an ill dachshund. I was rather groggy, but, when Cardinal Foley made that statement, it sure made me sit up and take notice to the point that I almost dropped little Beno.

Here is the reasoning that Msgr. Guido Marini, the Holy Father’s Master of Ceremonies, gave:

In this regard, it must not be forgotten that the distribution of communion in the hand remains, from the juridical point of view, a dispensation from the universal law, conceded by the Holy See to the bishops’ conferences that have asked for it. The practice adopted by Benedict XVI tends to emphasize the continued validity of the norm for the whole Church. In addition, one might also note a preference for the use of this manner of distribution which, without taking anything away from the other, better highlights the truth of the real presence in the Eucharist, aids the devotion of the faithful, and makes it easier to enter into the sense of mystery. In our time, pastorally speaking, it is urgent to recover and emphasize these aspects

And, here is he explanation that the Holy Father, himself, provided back in June 2008, when he began (for lack of a better word) the practice:

At this point we cannot forget the beginning of the “Decalogue”, the Ten Commandments, where it is written: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20: 2-3). Here we find the meaning of the third constitutive element of Corpus Christi: kneeling in adoration before the Lord. Adoring the God of Jesus Christ, who out of love made himself bread broken, is the most effective and radical remedy against the idolatry of the past and of the present. Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. Jn 3: 16). We prostrate ourselves before a God who first bent over man like the Good Samaritan to assist him and restore his life, and who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet. Adoring the Body of Christ, means believing that there, in that piece of Bread, Christ is really there, and gives true sense to life, to the immense universe as to the smallest creature, to the whole of human history as to the most brief existence. Adoration is prayer that prolongs the celebration and Eucharistic communion and in which the soul continues to be nourished: it is nourished with love, truth, peace; it is nourished with hope, because the One before whom we prostrate ourselves does not judge us, does not crush us but liberates and transforms us.

Thus, no where in the explanations given by Msgr. Marini, let alone the Holy Father, has there ever been an indication that this was done because Pope Benedict is small in stature. But, big things come in small packages!:thumbsup:

Our short priest typically stands on the first step leading up to the altar to distribute communion and manages both hand and tongue recipients just fine; somehow I suspect our Holy Father would be clever enough to come up with a method of distribution should his only concern be height. :rolleyes:

I would say it is mistaken to say that *standing is by indult *-- Rather, it is a legitimate option and is left to the determination of the Episcopal conference. The *Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani *reads, in part:
160. … Fideles communicant genuflexi vel stantes, prout Conferentia Episcoporum statuerit. Cum autem stantes communicant, commendatur ut debitam reverentiam, ab iisdem normis statuendam, ante susceptionem Sacramenti faciant.
which, off the top of my head, translates:
160. … The faithful communicate kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined. However when they communicate standing, it is recommended they make a reverence, determined by the same norms, before they make reception of the Sacrament.
In the US, the Conference of Bishops has determined and been confirmed by the Holy See that standing be the norm.


I was watching the Solemn Mass of Easter Sunday with Pope Benedict XVI on EWTN and I was totally shocked when I heard that comment! I have been sending emails everywhere trying to get the inappropriate comment addressed!

FYI: “The papal master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, commented that kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue helps to emphasize “the truth of the Real Presence [of Christ] in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and introduces the sense of mystery more easily”. In the same June 26 interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Monsignor Marini said that he believes that this practice will become the norm at all future papal celebrations.”

Ok, how would I find what my own Bishops’ Conference (i.e. that of England and Wales) have said on the matter? (I assume it might involve trawling through their website, although a determination like this might have been made before the internet existed).

something should be available here

I don’t. as a rule, do others’ searching for them, but:

The GIRM here, , appears to be a straight translation, at least as far as #160 is concerned. The E-W adaptations appear to be in the document below that, Celebrating the Mass, which reads in part:
210 The Communion procession expresses the humble patience of the poor moving forward to be fed, the alert expectancy of God’s people sharing the Paschal meal in readiness for their journey, the joyful confidence of God’s people on the march toward the promised land. In England and Wales it is through this action of walking solemnly in procession that the faithful make their sign of reverence in preparation for receiving Communion.
From this last sentence, I infer that (a sign of reverence being evidently necessary), the norm is to Communicate standing. :shrug:


Thanks for that, that is really useful. :slight_smile:

The current norm in the US is apparently for standing.
Originally though, people in the Netherlands and Belgium began standing and receiving Holy Communion on the hand back in 1968, out of pure disobedience. The norm is and was on the tongue and back then, kneeling. Something happened though, and Paul VI granted an indult to countries like the Netherlands which then spread to most Western countries.

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