Catholic World News News Feature
Limit role of extraordinary ministers, Vatican tells US October 26, 2006
The Vatican has instructed the Catholic bishops of the US to discontinue the practice of allowing extraordinary Eucharistic ministers to assist with the purification of chalices after Communion.
In an October 12 letter to Bishop William Skylstad, the president of the US bishops' conference, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship reported that Pope Benedict XVI ordered an end to the American practice. Cardinal Francis Arinze was responding to a request from the US bishops' conference, asking for approval to continue the policy.
Bishop Skylstad, in turn, wrote to all American bishops on October 23, informing them that "it will be necessary to inform all pastors that extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may no longer assist with the purification of sacred vessels at Mass."
Although the General Instruction of the Roman Missal specifies that sacred vessels may be purified only by a priest or deacon, the American bishops had obtained an indult, or permission, to allow extraordinary ministers to assist in that role. This indult was intended to encourage more people to receive Communion under both kinds.
In his letter to Bishop Skylstad, Cardinal Arinze noted, "Sometimes, however, the high number of communicants may render it inadvisable for everyone to drink from the chalice." He recommended that the American bishops remind their people of the teaching from the Council of Trent, "that Christ is fully present under each of the species. Communion under the species of bread alone, as a consequence, makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace."
Bishop Skylstad, in conveying news of the Vatican decision to the American hierarchy, attached a list of questions and answers about the distribution of Communion, prepared by Bishop Donald Trautman, the chairman of the US bishops' liturgy committee. Bishop Trautman reminded his fellow bishops that the use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist is intended "exclusively for those instances where there are not enough ordinary ministers to distribute Holy Communion."