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    Jefferson Adams

    Vatican Bans Gluten-Free Bread for Holy Communion

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

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


    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.

    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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    Which is just another reason I'm glad I wasn't raised in the Catholic faith. The popes have changed "rules" for many years. The wheat in a wafer today is also processed which I'm sure in Jesus day it was totally different. To many people this is very important to take their bread AND wine when they take their communion. Shame on them and their "rules".

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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!

    I am so glad that CeliacCatholics91 cleared this up and that this is the first comments billed here. It is the most accurate. I could have written this myself as I have been taking the "low Gluten" hosts for 10 years. all one needs to do is search for "Low Gluten hosts". Problem solved. The decision was announced in a letter to bishops by Cardinal Robert Sarah was meant to correct some parishes using completely gluten free hosts.

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    I'm not catholic but I did talk to my dietitian and he said that someone would have to consume 40 of those wafers to get gluttened. He is catholic. I have celiac and I pray over it that God will keep it from hurting me. Just trust Him! Everything is in His hands anyway!

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    I'm highly reactive to even the low-gluten communion wafer. And I can't drink the communion wine because I'm sensitive to salicylates and sulfates. So, during communion I close my eyes and visualize Jesus himself giving me communion. I feel so loved.

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    I guess this entire issue confuses me. As Catholics, we believe that the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ through transubstantiation. The wheat host is no longer a wheat host, but the body of Christ. I don't see the problem with consuming consecrated host for those of us with gluten issues.

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    Thank God that Jesus isn't alive today or in the future we might be eating McDonald's and Coca-Cola at the altar. Absolute rubbish. It´s all about control not religion.

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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!

    I'm also a practicing Catholic. I read in both my local newspaper and an international Catholic paper that one would have to ingest 270 hosts to reach 20PPMs. I refrain from the wine because it may be contaminated, and it is not required to complete the mass.

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    I agree with the above comment about the wheat that is in products today. Of all things for the church to be concerned about, this has got to be the most insignificant one to date. The Vatican clearly doesn't understand celiac disease and I would have thought they would have put more thought and study into such an edict.

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    Our church has a gluten-free station. gluten-free bread and non contaminated cup. Even low gluten is problematic for some with celiac. With all the turmoil in some churches, not sure why they are being so ridiculous about this. And true, today's wheat is NOT the same as in those times so it could very easily have been another ancient grain.

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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.

    It is my understanding that what Jesus ate was actually matzo - an unleavened bread made from wheat and water. That comes from the Israelites who had to flee Egypt before the slaying of the first born took place and they did not have time to let their bread rise. It is true the wheat that was grown then is not the wheat we know today which is loaded with pesticides-- which may OR may not be responsible for the spread of NCGS and possibly the astounding growth of celiac disease in recent years. Wheat was actually discovered growing in the grasses along the Nile and up to the Euphrates River and on through the entire Mediterranean region. It is entirely possible- historically- that this may be true. If in fact, these wafers are that small as to be under the 20 ppm level and safe for Catholics, then this information should be more wide spread. ( I am not a Catholic but do care about those who are and who may be very concerned about this information.

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    Guest Patricia Demicke

    Posted

    I have had celiac for 40 years and receive the gluten-free host almost daily and it has never had any adverse effect on my physical health. As far as the wheat issue who knows 100% what exactly the bread of Jesus's time contained. I do not believe Jesus would have any issue with the gluten-free host. The point of communion is not what the host contains but the belief that this is transformed into the body of Jesus and our desire to be closer to Him. The church has far bigger problems to worry about.

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    Well I wouldn't be able to but I'm not Catholic. But it's sad they don't consider how not only celiacs but wheat allergic people feel. And yes I know they considered it but decided it wasn't up to par. I agree with the person that said that the wheat back then is not the wheat of today. I am anaphylactic to wheat/gluten so couldn't have it in the slightest, can't have cross contamination either or the wine because of other food allergies. It's sad I wouldn't be allowed a substitute to feel that I've taken part in the holy process if I was part of that church and I have been part of churches that gave communion so I can very much imagine that. Sometimes people assume you aren't partaking because you are too full of sin. Not that we should care what people think. I'm just saying, I think they are missing the mark on what's important here.

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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 2,000 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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