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Dispute rises over Canadian prime minister's reception of Communion

July 09, 2009

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper precipitated a controversy when he received Communion during a funeral Mass. Early reports suggested that Harper, who is not a Catholic, slipped the Blessed Sacrament into his pocket. But a spokesman has denied those reports, saying that the prime minister actually consumed the Host, and an eyewitness confirmed that account. Questions remain as to why Archbishop Andre Richard administered the Eucharist to a man who is well known to be an Evangelical Protestant.

The incident occurred at a funeral for Romeo LeBlanc, the former governon-general of New Brunswick. After the initial reports raised fears of a sacrilege, Msgr. Brian Henneberry, the vicar general of the local St. John diocese, asked for clarification. “I would hope the prime minister’s office would have enough respect for the Catholic Church and for faith in general to make clear whatever happened,” he said. Canonist Edward Peters suggests that the full story, when it was told, seemed to indicate that Harper had acted in good faith-- but was placed in an untenable position by Catholics who did not offer him proper instruction about reception of Communion.

 


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