(LifeSiteNews) — A Brazilian bishop has lent his support to the Archbishop of Londrina, who gave Holy Communion to a Muslim sheik, questioning if the “‘sin’ is so big or scandalous.”
At the end of August, the Catholic Archbishop of Londrina in Brazil instigated outrage among Catholics when he handed Holy Communion to a Muslim cleric during a funeral Mass. The funeral was for the recently deceased Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo.
As evidenced by video footage of the Mass, Archbishop Geremias Steinmetz can be seen clearly handing Holy Communion to Sheik Ahmad Saleh Mahairi. In a statement from Mahairi that he gave to the archdiocese, it was confirmed that the Muslim consumed the Holy Eucharist.
Mahairi told the vicar general that he did not intend to “disrespect the Catholic Church” and that he consumed the host when he sat down in his pew.
However, Archbishop Steinmetz has received support from fellow Catholic prelates in the country. Speaking to Crux, Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino of the Prelature of São Félix do Araguaia defended the archbishop’s actions.
Vasino curiously admitted that the action contradicted Church law, but questioned whether breaking Church teaching regarding the Eucharist was so serious. “Of course, according to the Church’s laws, something like that is not possible,” he began. “But I ask myself if that ‘sin’ is so big or scandalous?”
“Italian-born Vasino recalled that Jesus himself broke several rules of religious purity,” Crux said.
“If we only analyze the events from a legal perspective, without taking into consideration the reality of the people, we will be always ready to criticize everybody,” stated Vasino. He added that it was impossible to “get into the sheikh’s heart and be conclusive about what happened, but he might have failed to understand what Communion was.”
“I think it is much worse when a person seeks Communion and has his or her heart full of resentment,” added Vasino.
However, in Steinmetz’s own statement, he included information from the sheik, who had stated that the late Cardinal Agnelo had explained to the Music cleric that “the Eucharist is the body of Jesus, considered a prophet for Islam.”
Meanwhile, another Brazilian bishop criticized the action but added that giving Holy Communion in such a situation was a result of a “human impulse.”
“You are giving Communion, and then somebody appears who you know is not able to receive it. You do not want to refuse to give the host to that person … But I have already refused it, very discreetly, but I did,” said Bishop Franz Meinrad Merkel, emeritus of the Diocese of Humaitá.
“We should not give too much attention to this case,” added Merkel, saying that “it was certainly a difficult moment for him [Steinmetz].” It is a “human impulse,” he stated.
Merkel nevertheless reiterated the fundamental difference between Islam and Catholicism, noting that Muslims reject Christ as God. “Believing in Jesus as a prophet is not enough to receive Communion the way the Church wants, and the way Jesus announced in the Last Supper,” he said.
Both Sheik Mahairi and Steinmetz were defended by another Muslim cleric of the area, Sheikh Jihad Hammadeh, who told Crux that the matter was likely the result of an innocent mistake.
“I do not see any bad intention coming from him or from the archbishop – only from the ones who are criticizing them now,” he argued.
Indeed, while support has been proffered to Steinmetz, the archbishop was in no apparent need of support given that he did not apologize for giving Holy Communion illegally, but in fact defended his action by citing Pope Francis and Vatican II.
He quoted from Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate, arguing that Muslims worship “the One God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent.”
Additionally, Steinmetz quoted Pope Francis’ 2022 document on the liturgy, Desiderio Desideravi, which both reaffirmed his 2021 restrictions on the traditional Mass and appeared to open the door on the matter of receiving Holy Communion.
“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.
Rather than depicting the Eucharist as the Catholic Church teaches — namely, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, to be received only by Catholics without mortal sin on their soul — Steinmetz chose the depiction of the Eucharist as a font of “fraternity.”
“The Eucharistic celebration,” wrote Steinmetz, “teaches us the noble exercise of charity, nourishes meekness, leads us to fraternity and respect for all.”
But responding to the archbishop’s comments, respected theologian and author Dr. Peter Kwasniewski argued that Steinmetz was evidencing the Church being “in the worst crisis of her history.”
“We have never seen something like this before,” wrote Kwasniewski. “Even at the worst times, no priest or bishop would have dared to give the Body of the Lord to an unbaptized pagan or infidel.”
He warned that citing Pope Francis’ writings, even if a false reference, demonstrated the “ripple effects” of the papal statements.
“Give communion to the peripheries … to the divorced and ‘remarried’ … to the LGBT community … to anyone and everyone and perhaps eventually anything that eats, like pets and carnivorous plants,” Kwasniewski quipped.