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WÜRZBURG, Germany, June 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Several parishes in the German diocese of Würzburg are publishing texts for worship services at home that include having the laity say words of “consecration” over bread, an action that is strictly reserved for priests. As churches begin to open up, the same parishes are having laity bring bread in a “lunch box” that they will hold in their hands during Mass and then self-communicate.
Fr. Bernhard Albert of Frammersbach, near Frankfurt, had provided the faithful of his parishes with texts for their own worship services amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I deliberately inserted the communion part and asked the people at home to take a piece of bread,” the 65-year-old priest told local newspaper Main-Post on June 3.
Even after public Masses were allowed again by the government and the dioceses, Fr. Albert asked his parishioners to bring their own bread to church in a lunch box.
“That’s not a problem. Everyone has bread and a box at home,” he said. “Jesus always celebrated with what people had with them.”
The members of Fr. Albert’s parishes seem to see no problem with the practice. “People are very pleased,” the priest said. “They report that they experience communion much more intensely than usual.”
He also said the practice “couldn’t be more hygienic.”
At the time of this writing, texts for three different days are available on the website of Fr. Albert’s three parishes, namely for Pentecost Sunday, Pentecost Monday, which is a holy day of obligation in Germany, and Trinity Sunday.
The faithful at home make the sign of the cross over bread and wine, say a short prayer, and consume bread and wine. For the bread, they are to say, “We take and eat the bread: it is for us the body of Jesus, which was given up for us. We do this in his memory.” Similarly, for the wine, the parishioners say, “We take and drink the wine: It is for us the blood of Jesus, the New Covenant in His blood, which was shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.”
The texts for Trinity Sunday no longer mention that bread and wine are “for us” the body and blood of Christ. Instead, bread and wine are blessed, and the faithful are told to “eat the blessed bread (and drink the wine) in remembrance of Jesus and the certainty of his whole union in love to us.”
For Pentecost, the wording at that point was “the blessed and consecrated” bread and wine.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, whenever a priest or a bishop says the words of consecration over bread and wine, “the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.”
However, “Only validly ordained priests,” as well as bishops, “can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord.”
According to the Code of Canon Law, “The most holy eucharistic sacrifice must be offered with bread and with wine in which a little water must be mixed. The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling. The wine must be natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled.”
Additionally, “the priest is to use unleavened bread in the eucharistic celebration whenever he offers it.”
Austrian Catholic news website kath.net had asked the diocese of Würzburg whether it would make sure that the liturgical laws and regulations of the Church are kept. Also, kath.net asked about simulating the Eucharist during worship services at home without a priest.
Diocesan spokesman Bernhard Schweßinger merely responded, “First: The diocese of Würzburg is dealing responsibly with the liturgical guidelines. Second: The diocese of Würzburg is clarifying the issue with the pastor responsible in direct contact.”
The priest responsible for another group of parishes in the diocese of Würzburg, Fr. Stefan Redelberger of Ansbach, also asked his parishioners to come to Mass with some bread in a lunch box, as pointed out by kath.net.
In his announcement, the priest starts out with an unattributed quote, probably summarizing the sentiments of many faithful. “Since mid-March, we’ve had to cut back. It’s time for everything to get back to normal! I don’t think we need to be so strict with the rules.”
Fr. Redelberger proceeded to explain the new practice of Holy Communion in his parishes, which goes against the rules set by the Church.
“In order to avoid the two dangerous moments of the Eucharistic celebration (going to the distribution of Communion and the presentation of the Host), each person/couple/family or community sharing an apartment brings a lunch box with the appropriate number of pieces of bread,” he wrote. “During the consecration, you will hold the lunch box in your hands. For the reception of Communion, you take your own piece of bread and communicate in your place.”
The priest attempted to justify the way of receiving the Eucharist as “a very common practice in Church history. Depending on the circumstances, the two signs of the Eucharistic celebration, bread and wine, were adapted to the requirements.”