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  • Jefferson Adams

    Vatican Bans Gluten-Free Bread for Holy Communion

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      The Vatican has outlawed gluten-free bread for Catholic communion.


    The Vatican has banned gluten-free bread for Catholic Communion. Photo: CC--Awareness Campaign.
    Caption: The Vatican has banned gluten-free bread for Catholic Communion. Photo: CC--Awareness Campaign.

    Celiac.com 07/31/2017 - For a time, it looked like gluten-free Catholics might be able to take full communion with special gluten-free wafers.

    But, gluten-free Catholics hoping to enjoy both the wine and the bread of a full communion had their hopes dashed this week, when the Church put the kibosh on gluten-free communion wafers.



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    The decision was announced in a letter to bishops by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, and read, in part:

    "The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition...It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament."

    He has said the bread can be low-gluten, but the wheat must contain enough protein for it to be made without additives.

    According to Roman Catholic doctrine, the bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.

    Gluten-free Catholics will still be able to take communion, as the church holds that simply taking the wine is sufficient to receive communion.

    Still, the ruling, which must be followed by the 1.2 billion Catholics around the globe, is bound to disappoint numerous gluten-free members. Share your thoughts below.

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    Guest CeliacCatholic91

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    As a devout Catholic, I want to be clear about what is going on here. This is NOT NEW. The Church has ALWAYS taught that the Eucharist must be made up of water and wheat (it's a very simple, pure recipe) as that was what Jesus used and we follow His example. If we deviate from that, what's to stop priests from distributing Oreo cookies? Nilla wafers? Pretzels? You have to draw the line somewhere. I have celiac and have been taking the "low gluten" host for 8 years. My doctor regularly checks my antibody levels, and it doesn't register at ALL! These hosts are so small and fall under the FDA approval of 20 parts gluten per million. It's important to check ahead of time at the parish you're attending that good cross-contamination processes are in place. I've never had a bad experience. Taking the wine is also fine. I don't feel left out, because being part of my Church is the most important thing. Please understand Church teaching before you comment on it!

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    What most people don't seem to recognize is that if you are sharing a chalice with others who have partaken of altar bread, you are exposing yourself to cross-contamination and gluten with the shared chalice and wine.

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    So God can only perform miracles with bread made of wheat? Hmm... don't let the devil know that millet flour is Jesus Kryptonite. Should be a bigger story, really. The playbook is all laid out for you, Satan.

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    Wheat as we know it in modern times is NOT the wheat that Jesus ate. We have genetically modified to the point that more people cannot digest it. Please watch "What´s in the Wheat" movie. It explains so much! And do we really know that what Jesus ate was unleavened (nice fluffy bread in all the paintings!) or was it even wheat? It could have been Teff or other ancient grain.

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    I agree with Kat. It's not about the exact recipe. It's about what taking communion means. Also, in reference to Karen, my church calls those that must eat gluten free to come up first so that we don't use contaminated wine.

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    The church has distributed low gluten hosts for many years. Many researchers have determined that these are completely safe. Therefore, this article many scare some people from receiving communion and the information should be clarified.

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    Crazy. To think that SOMEONE decided centuries ago that wheat was the only "holy" grain and no variation or change in church policy can be considered. Jesus also went barefoot or wore sandals but I don't see the church dictating that we all do the same. And to suggest that priests will use Oreos in place of wafers is ludicrous.

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    I think that if your a Catholic its your choice. But you don't understand what its like to be a celiac and can't have regular bread that has wheat. the bread with no yeast is unleavened. To me God understands people who cant have wheat . And as long as they take communion you are doing it for the right reason this is my thoughts. I am grateful for gluten-free communion bread wafers so I can take it.

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    Is this a change? The article is not clear if the current low-gluten wafers are still acceptable to the Catholic church. Better reporting, please. Doesn't affect me, I just use the chalice, since occasionally got a reaction to the current low-gluten host. I do see that there is a tradition of using wheat, but how do we know that the Last Supper used wheat bread and not barley? Both were common grains of the time. Pretzels and Nilla wafers would pass the wheat test, by the way, but the dough is not in the unleavened wafer tradition.

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    Too bad they aren't as strict with their rules about protecting innocent children. I have a great relationship with God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit and He understands my celiac and my need to be gluten free.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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