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Vatican letter to bishops urges vigilance on valid matter for the Holy Eucharist

July 10, 2017

At the Pope’s request, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has urged the world’s bishops to “watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist and also those who prepare these materials.”

The Vatican directive indicates that gluten-free hosts are not valid matter for the Eucharist, although low-gluten hosts may be used.

“Until recently it was certain religious communities who took care of baking the bread and making the wine for the celebration of the Eucharist,” the Congregation noted. “Today, however, these materials are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet.”

Quoting from a 2004 instruction, the Congregation stated that “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.” The Congregation added:

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. It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist …

Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.

Again citing previous documents, the Congregation stated that “the wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances … Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured.”

The Congregation added:

Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist …The Ordinary is competent to give permission for an individual priest or layperson to use low-gluten hosts or mustum for the celebration of the Eucharist. Permission can be granted habitually, for as long as the situation continues which occasioned the granting of permission.

Citing a 2013 communication, the Congregation said that “Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified organisms can be considered valid matter.”

The Congregation concluded by suggesting that “an episcopal conference could mandate one or more religious congregations or another body capable of carrying out the necessary checks on production, conservation and sale of the Eucharistic bread and wine in a given country and for other countries to which they are exported.”

The Congregation’s letter to bishops, dated June 15, was released by the Holy See Press Office on July 8.


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  • Posted by: bruno - Jul. 11, 2017 1:43 AM ET USA

    In the 80's some parishes had liturgical committees that would delegate the preparation of eucharistic bread to parishioners. The recipes circulated often turned to the inclusion of a variety of ingredients such as honey, oil, and eggs. Of course, at that point you have what should be considered cake and not bread. You can't consecrate any food whatsoever and have it become the Body of Christ.

  • Posted by: padrebill - Jul. 11, 2017 1:05 AM ET USA

    why would they approve genetically modified (GM) wheat for altar bread? couldn't there come a point where it would no longer be wheat?

  • Posted by: JimKcda - Jul. 11, 2017 12:34 AM ET USA

    In California, after VII, we saw priests using materials such as corn tortillas and Welch's Grape Juice in Masses. Those of us who complained were called fanatics, kooks, and even worse by our Bishops & Pastors. I pray that we never experience that again but I wonder why this document is necessary at this time. Perhaps these abuses are going on again (or still) in some Countries or areas of our Country. VALIDITY of the Sacrament is the concern since " matter, form & intension" are ALL required.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jul. 10, 2017 5:32 PM ET USA

    This sounds a little Rigid and Legalistic.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 10, 2017 7:59 AM ET USA

    All instructions from the Vatican should be clear and consistent with the Sacred Tradition like this one. They should never raise dubia or require for the correct interpretation some unique knowledge available in some parts of the Church but not in others. Also it is nice to see a reference to previous documents.