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Ask the Register: inter-Communion?

Q. What does the Church teach about inter-communion.  Can non-Catholics receive the Holy Eucharist?

A. The Eucharist is the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ— a gift, a grace from Christ, for Christians seeking holiness, the eternal communion with God. 

In the Gospel of John, Christ taught that his body and blood will bring those who consume it to eternal life:

“So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

Because the Eucharist is truly the truly the body of Christ, St. Paul taught that “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”

Based upon St. Paul’s admonishment, Catholics must examine whether they are conscious of unforgiven grave sin before receiving the Eucharist.  And, because the Eucharist is a sign of unity, those who receive it signify that they accept the teachings, and governance, of the Catholic Church.  Non-Catholics, who do not accept the Church’s teaching and authority, would not receive the Eucharist in truth, because they are not in full communion with the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

There are limited circumstances in which non-Catholics may receive the Holy Eucharist. And these must be judged very carefully, ordinarily by the bishop.  But our greatest hope should be that non-Catholic Christians would come to enjoy the fullness of Christian communion, in the Catholic Church Christ founded, so that, as Jesus prayed, “all might be one.”

Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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