A Swiss diocese has banned the “communion to go” that was being offered in churches there as a way of getting around coronavirus restrictions on public Masses.
– Consecrated Hosts in individual paper boxes
In a statement April 22, the Diocese of Chur shut down the initiative put in place by the parish of Stans, south of Zurich, whereby ministers were placing consecrated Hosts inside of small paper boxes and leaving those boxes on a table in front of the santuary for the faithful to take home.
“Consecrated hosts to take for Communion at home”, a sign on the table stated.
Kath.ch, a website of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, reported April 19 that the principal Stans parish church and another church nearby were open for an hour-and-a-half every day for Catholics to pick up the consecrated Hosts, under the watchful eye of a lay minister.
The idea was that the faithful would thereby avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus and also comply with the Swiss authorities’ social distancing requirements.
On Holy Saturday alone, some 70 Catholics of the Stans parish availed themselves of the communion “to go”, with even more doing so on Easter Day, kath.ch said.
– Apostolic administrator quotes Church law to quash practice
Despite the evident popularity of the paper box communion format, the Chur diocese has now moved to ban the practice, along with other ways of distributing the Eucharist outside of regular Mass.
Apostolic administrator Pierre Bürcher said in his statement that it is forbidden both that “the Eucharist be given to the faithful for distribution to third parties” and also that Catholics “take the Eucharist with [them] in envelopes and other unsuitable containers”.
As grounds for banning the communion “to go” Bürcher cited both the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which says that consecrated Hosts must be transported in vessels made of precious metal or gilded on the inside, such as pyxes, and also the 2004 Vatican instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, which states, among other things, that “no one may carry the Most Holy Eucharist to his or her home”.
Bürcher also quoted words of Pope Francis’, to the effect that “when we go to Mass it is as if [we] were going to Calvary itself”.
“But consider: whether at the moment of Mass we go to Calvary – let us ponder this with the imagination – and we know that that man there is Jesus. But will we allow ourselves to chat, to take photographs, to put on a little show? No! Because it is Jesus!”, Bürcher quoted the pontiff as saying.
The Chur apostolic administrator made the most of his statement banning the paper communion boxes to recall that consecrated Hosts may not be sent through the mail either, and also that for the duration of the pandemic home visits by priests are restricted to sick people, as long as appropriate health measures are put in place.
– What’s next?
There has been no word, for the moment, as to how the Stan Catholics who were used to picking up take-away communion in their local church have reacted to the ban.
But it seems possible that they won’t take it lying down, especially those faithful – two of whom were quoted in the kath.ch report – who had been either taking communion while watching Mass on TV or following parish guidelines to have their own self-led communion service at home.