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Vatican Bans Gluten-Free Bread for Holy Communion

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


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."

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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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41 Responses:

 
CeliacCatholic91
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said this on
31 Jul 2017 11:15:28 AM PDT
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!

 
Elizabeth
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 7:48:31 AM PDT
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.

 
Jen
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said this on
22 Aug 2017 12:48:24 PM PDT
I am so glad CeliacCatholic91 and Elizabeth are the top posts. I wanted to add some more clarifications and comments on the topic. I ordered the low gluten hosts for my parish for years, and part-way through that time I got diagnosed with celiac disease. More than a decade ago there was only ONE manufacturer in the US of low gluten hosts that were approved as valid. In order for celiacs to be able to receive the Eucharistic Jesus (and not some unchanged food host that isn´t Jesus), we had to order from this source that used only valid ingredients. The type of host used is not so much of a problem for religions that intend communion only as a symbol or as a trans-signification where a food host is supposed to remain a food host for their services, but it is a major problem for Catholics where the food host needs to be trans-substantiated to become Jesus during the Mass during the consecration. Today, there are lots of options for ordering hosts, but many manufacturers use ingredients that cause the host to remain simply an ordinary food wafer and not become Jesus during the consecration at Mass. More and more, ordering responsibilities in Catholic parishes are delegated to well-meaning volunteers or employees not trained in the liturgical requirements, who could make the mistake of buying hosts containing invalid ingredients from any number of manufactures of gluten-free or low-gluten hosts. The Church is actually protecting celiacs and other Catholics by checking on the ingredients of the bread and wine used for Mass. If a validly ordained Catholic priest pronounces the words of consecration over a host made of only wheat and water, it becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. If a validly ordained Catholic priest pronounces the words of consecration over a host made with things other than only wheat and water - for instance added rice flour or tapioca starch - it remains simply an ordinary food wafer; it does not become Jesus. When Catholics go up to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, the Church wants to be able to give them the Eucharistic Jesus and NOT trick them by giving only a rice wafer. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, MO make an extremely low gluten host (<20ppm) with only wheat and water. They worked with prelates in Europe to find the right types of wheat starches that would allow it to hold together in host form without additional ingredients so that it would be valid. These hosts are approved for use during Mass by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and these Sisters supply the low gluten hosts that many of the US parishes use. If your parish uses these hosts, then during the consecration they will become Jesus and you will be able to receive the Eucharistic Jesus. If your parish buys an unapproved host from any number of companies who make a gluten-free or low-gluten hosts using things other than only wheat and water, it will not become Jesus during the Mass and the clergy or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion who gives you what looks like a wafer will only be a wafer. The Church is guarding Catholic celiacs by making sure parishes use the correct type of host that will become Jesus via transubstantiation. I personally do not want to call my parish office every week and ask where they order the low gluten hosts and what the ingredients list is so I know whether what I go to receive at Mass will actually be Jesus or if I have to call parish after parish to find a place that uses valid hosts so I can receive Jesus. (However, I do glance at the bag of hosts in the sacristy as I fill my pyx and see that they´re still being purchased from the same source.) The Church via this recent letter is trying to make sure that all the parishes that use low gluten hosts are using the right type of low gluten host so as to really provide us celiacs with Jesus, not just a rice or buckwheat wafer. It is a great help to read the translation of the actual letter written by the Robert Cardinal Sarah, and you can clearly see that it is for the good of all Catholics, including celiacs. In fact, the letter is not aimed at making sure of the validity of low gluten hosts alone, it is aimed at making sure of the validity of all bread and wine used for Mass so that all who receive can receive Jesus whether they be healthy, have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, be recovering alcoholics, have allergies, are lay or clergy. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/07/08/letter_to_bishops_on_the_bread_and_wine_for_the_eucharist/1323886

 
Bebe
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 10:45:06 AM PDT
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.

 
Kat
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said this on
31 Jul 2017 11:24:32 AM PDT
You have to choose to follow God or follow organized religion. What was the Lord's intent ...the content of the food or the message?

 
Karen
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said this on
31 Jul 2017 12:00:52 PM PDT
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.

 
Jon
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 5:34:37 AM PDT
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.

 
Anna Hamer
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 5:44:05 AM PDT
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.

 
Sybil Nassau
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said this on
09 Aug 2017 4:58:26 PM PDT
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.

 
Roger
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 6:43:21 AM PDT
I wonder what would be done if all the priests and the Pope came down with very serious and life threatening celiac.

 
Debe
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 4:49:57 PM PDT
Roger, My thoughts exactly. I am sure God is more understanding to those who have celiac and need to have GF bread. Following Jesus is not just about communion but about how we respond to his teachings. Anyway the church has bigger problems to deal with (like current pedophile) than banning GF bread

 
Sharon
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 7:08:59 AM PDT
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.

 
Linda
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 8:02:56 AM PDT
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.

 
Jacki
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 9:04:15 PM PDT
This article is completely without fact! I have been receiving the low-gluten host for many years and I don't see that coming to an end. It is completely acceptable in the church. Comment from Celiac catholic91 is right on.

 
Joy
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 8:31:47 AM PDT
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.

 
Teresa
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 9:10:02 AM PDT
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 GF communion bread wafers so I can take it.

 
Helen
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 9:15:28 AM PDT
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.

 
Lynn Katen
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 10:41:43 AM PDT
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.

 
Tom Neaman
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 12:48:05 PM PDT
Children do not consume wine! Here we go again with more man-made decisions based on non-substantiated facts.

 
Sandi Ramirez
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 1:43:39 PM PDT
We as a new Catholic I was excited to be able to take part in Holy Communion. That is the thing I watched my husband and his family do every Mass for the 25 years I attended before I converted. I am very sad that one of the most important parts of the Mass for me I will not be able to take part in. Let me explain further why...I am deaf and and do not sign. As a late life deaf person who reads lips, I might be able to get part of the Homily, if i am lucky but usually the priest moves around or I can not read his lips. Yes, the Mass is supposed the be the same format but it is not the different parishes we visit so it makes it hard when one is deaf. That makes taking Holy Communion the one thing that was consistent no matter where i went. Now I do not have that even. Yes, If i am lucky I might be the first to get the wine OH wait no the chalice is simply wiped out. No cross contamination. Pope Francis has the ability to change this like his has changed other things in the church. We the Celiacs in the world and Catholics should let him know how it affects our lives both spiritual and health wise. I plan too. I eat Grain, Dairy and Sugar Free Now but this is the ONLY exception I was making was the HOST. Because My Faith is so important to me.

 
Ian Geary
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 2:07:34 PM PDT
I suppose this could be expected from such a bizarre organization that attempts to interpret the sayings of a man who lived 2000+ years ago but his words were written down a long, long time later. It is totally improvable that Jesus said ´if you are a celiac you must still eat wheat to ruin you small intestine´. If I am wrong then I need to see that written in the new testament. Anyway did not Jesus know about celiacs? What is omnipotence after all?

 
Kay
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 2:47:38 PM PDT
Well, assuming all I've been taught about my religion is true; that God created all of us with Celiac as his children, along with all those who don't have Celiac; and that the wafer is a symbol that has been blessed to become the body of Christ; and that God is almighty and quite capable of love, intelligence, mercy, and assorted creative powers; I believe that he/she would logically be agreeable to any sort of cracker, (GF) oreo, etc. My understanding is that it is the intent of both the representative of God who speaks the blessing of the wine and wafer, and the intent of the one partaking of the sacrament that bring about the wonderful change into the body and blood of Christ. & when it comes right down to it, I'm not really into the idea of drinking other people´s crumbs and drool, either . . . God rules or people rules?

 
kwix
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 3:09:27 PM PDT
Well, this is understandable since the Catholic Church requires that the host *always* conform in absolutely *all* ways to *exactly* how it was made in the Middle East in the First Century: all the same ingredients that were available then, with the same local Palestinian preparation methods, and the same methods of baking the pita or whatever it was. That's why Catholics *never* perform the Eucharist with crackers or leavened European-style bread. Oh, wait? What! They just isolate and focus on this one thing, to the exclusion of literally every other aspect -- simply arbitrarily picking this one ingredient? Even though causes a painful exclusion of people who believe in the ritual? Even though God is supposed to transubstantiate it anway? (I guess they don't believe God is that powerful...) Sounds to me like the Catholic Church really does not want people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to be a part of their church.

 
Marie
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 7:32:40 PM PDT
That is discrimination. And to the CeliacCatholic 91: I read an article about an European nun with celiac disease that kept showing symptoms because she had to take the communion; her doctor did testing and gluten showed-up in her blood. In US the government did studies to come up with the exact amount of gluten that starts to damage the intestine, it is infinitesimal. I remember reading also that a very, very small amount of gluten reacts in the small intestine for 72 hours. Gluten is very teal to me, I would not put my life in jeopardy because of communion, oh, no. I would not do that to myself because my religion ask me to do it ( and I am a catholic); I had enough with my parents dying of cardiomyopathy and complications as a result of senile dementia, I do not want to be another statistic of celiac disease. I better write to Pope Francisco to voice my concerns.

 
Beth
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 7:34:15 PM PDT
Glad I´m a Lutheran. We still have GF wafers.

 
Donna S
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 8:33:45 PM PDT
Catholics who are tired of being excluded from the Table are welcome to the Table at the Lutheran church where many serve GF bread or wafers. Our church uses GF bread exclusively so everyone is welcomed to the same meal. It's about the only meal all week I don't have to worry what I'm eating. I love it!

 
Susan
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 8:56:34 PM PDT
I´m not Catholic but my Baptist church has not offered me GF communion wafers in the 10 1/2 years since I was diagnosed, even though they know I have celiac. It would be great if they did but it has just been the juice for me since then.

 
Retta
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said this on
07 Aug 2017 10:40:11 PM PDT
It all comes down to faith. In the Catholic church, we believe that God is the only physician, the only healer. People who are Catholic and have celiac disease must have great faith to know that they will not be adversely affected by His body in the Holy Eucharist. Those with little faith and who do not truly believe that the Holy Eucharist is bread that was changed (transubstantiation) into the actual body of Christ, have a chance that they will be adversely affected. We must put all our trust and faith in Him. Faith equals: Father and I, Together there is always Hope.

 
Liz
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said this on
13 Aug 2017 1:27:58 PM PDT
Horrible advice. Would you eat poison due to faith that your God would heal you?

 
Jen
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said this on
23 Aug 2017 3:35:20 PM PDT
A note on transubstantiation and the tiny bit of gluten (<20ppm) in a valid low gluten host...

During trans-´substantiation´, the entire ´substance´ changes from wheat bread to Jesus – no gluten remains. The ´accidents´, sometimes called ´appearances´, ordinarily do not change. We know by faith, not by sight, that after the consecration, this is entirely the ´substance´ of Jesus, despite the ´accidents´ – the consecrated Host still looks like a wheat wafer (or the low gluten ones years ago looked like bubble wafers), tastes like a wheat wafer, weighs the same amount as a wheat wafer, feels like a wheat wafer, and it could adversely affect a celiac´s health like eating a wheat wafer could, yet it is not a wheat wafer anymore at all and contains absolutely no ´substance´ of gluten anymore.

This remote possibility of the low-gluten host after consecration adversely affecting the health of a celiac is not from any lack of faith, it is a consequence of an extreme case of celiac disease. In years of working at the parish and helping other parishes and celiacs to order the USCCB-approved low gluten hosts and learn how to avoid cross-contamination of the accidents of the typical hosts, I have never met any celiacs who had a problem with the low gluten hosts the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration make, but it is conceivable that there could be some. I have never had a problem from receiving 7 times what the average Catholic with celiac disease receives, since I am a daily communicant, and my doctors tests also showed I have no problem with receiving daily, yet I am sensitive enough to react to some foods in the grocery store labeled “gluten-free”.

The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration´s tests show that the amount of gluten in the pre-consecrated host they make is so small that it has less than the lowest detectable amount, yet there may be some extremely sensitive celiacs whose bodies negatively react to this ´accident´ of the consecrated Host. The Sisters did much research to make a host with the least amount of gluten possible so that as many Catholic celiacs as possible could receive Jesus in the Eucharistic Host – too much gluten and celiacs could react badly and not be able to receive the Host, while too little (no gluten) and celiacs could not receive Jesus because the host would not become Jesus during the consecration.

For anyone who does have such severe celiac disease as to still have a problem, please talk with your pastor or other local priest to help you and your doctor look into ways for you to receive the Eucharist; there are more ways than I have seen mentioned on celiac web sites. For instance, those in nursing homes with difficulty swallowing might receive a tiny piece of a consecrated Host, and similar might – check with your pastor - be able to be done in severe celiac disease, for a tiny portion of what was once a low-gluten host. Also, the medicines and enzymes that are being researched to help digest gluten without causing autoimmune reaction might - check with your pastor - be able to be used in close proximity to receiving the Eucharist with benefit for any symptoms caused by the accidents. There are other possibilities that could enable some extremely sensitive celiacs to still receive the Blessed Sacrament.

For anyone who still is unable to find a way to receive the Eucharistic Jesus due to health problems, know that you are not alone. There are many suffering conditions where they cannot swallow for days, weeks, months, or years, or who can otherwise take no food by mouth. There are recovering alcoholics who have trouble entering a church where both species are offered. There are many people who at the end of their lives – perhaps when they would most want the Eucharist as viaticum - are unable to take food or drink any longer. There are even more people who can eat, but who are homebound or confined to care facilities without anyone to bring Communion or transport them even if well enough to be brought to Mass. There are people undergoing chemotherapy or who have transplants or other things that lower their immune system too much to be near parishioners or even are at too much immune risk to have someone bring them Holy Communion at home. There are many who live too far from a Church or do not have a priest for most of the year, who cannot attend Mass or receive Holy Communion. And perhaps the largest group are those Catholics who have not yet understood enough of the value of receiving the Eucharist every week, and so are prevented until a special grace helps them to seek to receive the Eucharist regularly - perhaps this grace will come from your prayers or example or friendship.

The members of the Church – clergy and lay and all who love God even if not in full communion - are working hard on finding ways to relieve our and others´ illnesses and enable us and others to participate more in all life´s good activities, including religious practices. As celiacs we have experienced some changes and some limitations (far less these days than in the past), and can use these experiences as a way of grace to be more understanding of and helpful in trying to relieve the sufferings and challenges of others.

 
Chris
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 6:16:50 AM PDT
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".

 
Becky
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 8:46:27 AM PDT
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!

 
Karen
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 9:19:10 AM PDT
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.

 
Danni
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 10:22:26 AM PDT
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.

 
Liz
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said this on
13 Aug 2017 1:31:47 PM PDT
Seriously?? That must be the most ignorant statement I've read in years. Read a second book!

 
Ella
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 10:30:35 AM PDT
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.

 
Ann MacDonald
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said this on
08 Aug 2017 11:25:36 AM PDT
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.

 
Becky
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said this on
09 Aug 2017 11:54:32 AM PDT
Our church has a GF station. GF 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.

 
Patricia Demicke
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said this on
11 Aug 2017 6:36:17 PM PDT
I have had celiac for 40 years and receive the GF 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 GF 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.

 
Sandy
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said this on
13 Aug 2017 5:38:34 AM PDT
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.

 
Sandy
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said this on
13 Aug 2017 5:42:52 AM PDT
Forgot to also point out, THE important part is it represents the body and blood of Christ. Represents. So what's wrong with GF bread and water representing? What would Jesus do? Really? In this situation.




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