LONDRINA, Brazil (LifeSiteNews) — Citing Pope Francis’ writings restricting the traditional liturgy, a Brazilian archbishop gave Holy Communion to a Muslim cleric at a funeral for a recently deceased cardinal.
The news of a Muslim cleric receiving Holy Communion at the hands of a Catholic archbishop has sparked outrage.
On August 28, Archbishop Geremias Steinmetz of the Archdiocese of Londrina in Brazil gave Holy Communion to Sheik Ahmad Saleh Mahairi. The Mass was the funeral ceremony of recently deceased Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, which Sheik Mahairi was attending due to having known Cardinal Angelo for many decades.
In live-streamed footage from the Mass, Steinmetz can be seen handing Holy Communion to Sheik Mahairi in the hand. The action causes several priests and altar servers in the Communion line to stare at the Sheik, who passes out of camera shot holding the Host in his hand.
With the incident causing controversy in local media outlets, Steinmetz issued a statement in which he defended handing Holy Communion to the Muslim leader.
The archbishop noted that representatives of “different religious denominations” were in attendance, including Sheik Mahairi of the King Faiçal Mosque.
Describing Mahairi as friend of Cardinal Angelo’s since the 1980s, Steinmetz wrote:
Sheiki is a man known in various spheres of society and maintains a respectful relationship with the Catholic Church. He was also a friend of another archbishop of Londrina, the late Don Albano Cavallin, with whom he had a close relationship. As a friend he participated in the Eucharistic celebration and, entering the communion line, received the body of Christ.
Steinmetz sought to excuse the action somewhat by stating how the images only showed the Muslim receiving Holy Communion, but not actually “consuming it.”
Following the “repercussions of these images,” Steinmetz stated he tasked the archdiocesan Vicar General to “talk to Sheiki to clarify the situation.”
The Sheik reportedly told the Vicar General that told the vicar general that he did not intend to “disrespect the Catholic Church,” revealing that he did in fact consume the host when he sat down in his pew. He added that the deceased cardinal had explained “that the Eucharist is the body of Jesus, considered a prophet for Islam.”
Nostra Aetate cited in defense
Seemingly unperturbed by the event, Steinmetz cited the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate – which has drawn criticism due to its permissive tolerance towards non-Catholic creeds – stating that the “Church also looks with esteem on Muslims.”
“They worship the One God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent,” he continued in his quotation, but also acknowledged that Muslims do not recognize Christ as God.
In the words of Islam’s religious text itself, it can be noted that there is an outright rejection of many fundamental elements of Catholicism. Firstly, the Koran rejects the notion of God as Trinity; secondly, it rejects that God has a son, saying it is beneath Him to have one. Thirdly, Jesus is viewed simply as a messenger of God, thus it claims that Mary could not be the Mother of God.
With this in mind, Bishop Athanasius Schneider in his book-length interview Christus Vincit, stated “Islam in itself is not faith.”
The bishop continued by explaining that faith is only found in Christianity and “is applicable only to belief in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … When someone does not believe in the Holy Trinity, he has no faith but simply natural religion.”
Likewise, Cardinal Raymond Burke stated in an August 2016 interview, that “I don’t believe it’s true that we’re all worshipping the same God, because the God of Islam is a governor.”
Pope Francis’ liturgical upheaval cited
Along with quoting Nostra Aetate, Steinmetz also drew from Pope Francis’ 2022 document on the liturgy, Desiderio Desideravi. “No one had earned a place at the Last Supper. Rather, they were invited, attracted, by the burning desire of Jesus himself to eat that Passover with them, whose lamb is himself,” said Steinmetz, paraphrasing sections 4 and 5 of the document.
He further cited section 6, which when read in natural continuity from sections 4 and 5, appears to suggest that one’s reception of Communion is allowed simply due to having listened to God’s word. Furthermore, the papal text argues that even the simple presence at Mass – regardless of adhering to the Catholic faith or not – is an expression of listening to God’s word, and consequently a justification for receiving Communion.
“What is certain is that all our communions in the Body and Blood of Christ were desired by him at the Last Supper,” wrote Francis.
“The Eucharistic celebration,” wrote Steinmetz, “teaches us the noble exercise of charity, nourishes meekness, leads us to fraternity and respect for all.”
Catholic teaching on reception of Communion
Notwithstanding such arguments drawing from Vatican II and Pope Francis, Catholic teaching is very clear on who is to be permitted to Holy Communion. Catholic moral teaching clearly outlines that the reception of Holy Communion is only for Catholics who have reached the age of reason and who have the proper disposition.
Canon law notes that Holy Communion is reserved for baptized, who meet the other requirements laid out: “Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.”
Moral theologian Fr. John Laux outlines the necessary dispositions for Catholics as being:
- Free from mortal sin, and to have the sincere purpose of avoiding venial sin.
- Receiving Communion without vanity or for “merely human motives” but to please God.
- Proper preparation, including the prescribed time of fasting.
The Vatican’s 2004 Redemptionis Sacramentum further states that “Catholic ministers licitly administer the Sacraments only to the Catholic faithful, who likewise receive them licitly only from Catholic ministers, except for those situations for which provision is made in can. 844 §§ 2,3, and 4, and can. 861 § 2.”
The canons mentioned pertain to the distribution of Holy Communion to those in the Eastern Churches, and to those in danger of death, and does not permit the possibility of distributing Communion to practicing Muslims.