Pope Benedict XVI and Dominus est

Source: Schneider, Athanasius; Fülep Dániel (July 2018). CATHOLIC CHURCH: WHERE ARE YOU HEADING?, Interview book. Free version: Hungarian Electronic Library

Kapcsolódó kép
Padre Pio Receiving Holy Communion

Pope Benedict and Dominus est

Mr. Fülep: Dominus est! [It Is the Lord!],[1] the famous work of your Excellency, is a great martyrologic and patristic witness of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling as the most worthy gesture. Few know that you took the manuscript of the book to the synod on the Eucharist in 2005,[2] in which you participated as an auditor, and that it had a direct impact on Pope Benedict XVI.

His Excellency Bishop Schneider: During the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005, where I participated as an auditor, they discussed the manner of receiving Holy Communion, and also the problematic mode of receiving Holy Communion directly in the hand; the so-called communion in the hand. I prepared in 2005 my future book, Dominus Est, as a manuscript. I had a short audience with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, during the synod, and I expressed to him my concern about the situation created by communion in the hand. The Pope answered me that already other bishops had spoken to him about this problem. I said to him: ‘Holy Father, I prepared a manuscript for a book about this topic. Would you like to have it and to read it?’ He answered me: ‘Yes, please give it to me.’ However, I had forgotten to bring the text with me and to this audience. And so I said to the Holy Father: ‘I apologise, I forgot the text.’ The Pope said: ‘There is no problem. You can give the text to my secretary tomorrow.’ It was providential that I have forgotten the text, because in the evening I could still write an accompanying letter. I wrote this letter in which I expressed a specific request to the Pope: ‘Most Holy Father, I beseech you in the name of Jesus Christ, please, yourself no longer give Communion in the hand, but make it so that when people come to you to receive Holy Communion from your hands, that they will receive it only kneeling and on the tongue.[3] So I asked him, and then the next day I gave to the secretary the text of my future book and the accompanying letter.

Mr. Fülep: What impact did the book have on Pope Benedict?

His Excellency Bishop Schneider: After a couple of weeks I got a letter, on the envelope was written: ‘Confidentially and personally.’ When I read this on the envelope, I suddenly felt in my soul that it was the answer of Pope Benedict to my letter. When I opened the letter, I read these words of Benedict XVI: ‘Your arguments are convincing. But as you know, there are in the Church powerful groups who resist what you have asked me to do.’ He only described the situation and gave me his blessing. Honestly speaking, I did not believe that the Pope would do what I asked him to do. Then I published my book “Dominus Est” (“It is the Lord”) some years later in the Vatican publishing house in the beginning of 2008, first in Italian. Some months later, on the feast of Corpus Christi in 2008[4] Pope Benedict XVI did what I had asked him to do. He did this until the end of his pontificate[5] . Since that day, Pope Benedict XVI distributed Holy Communion exclusively in this mode, that people had to kneel down on a kneeler, and then received the Holy Host directly on the tongue. I did not believe that he would do this. When some days later I saw some pictures on a liturgical website, I could not believe it, I was so happy. There was a commentary below saying that from this moment on, Pope Benedict will distribute the Holy Communion in this mode.[6] I was so happy that I suddenly knelt down before my computer and prayed the Te Deum. Some weeks later, I was in Rome and participated in the general audience, and in the end of the audience I approached Pope Benedict[7] and greeted him. I said to him literally ‘Most Holy Father, may God reward you because of the miracle, which happened on the feast of Corpus Christi.’ He suddenly understood the meaning of what I spoke, and said to me: ‘Yes, this mode of giving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue is more appropriate.’ It was for me really a deep spiritual joy. I had this deep spiritual joy not because of my ideas, but because of the Lord, since He has the right to be defended in the surest way, to be adored and to be respected even in the exterior manner in a most sacred manner, which is the traditional form to receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue.

Mr. Fülep: Can we say that it is because of Dominus Est that Pope Benedict definitively became a committed follower of the effective general rule of administering Holy Communion as a model to follow? 

His Excellency Bishop Schneider: I don’t know directly but at least it was a consequence. I don’t know if he did this because of my letter or because there were other people who asked him to do so. At least it was for me really a deep joy.

Mr. Fülep: The synod of 2005 on the Eucharist was attended by Protestant observers, too.[8] Your Excellency had a painfully memorable meeting with a Lutheran ‘bishop’ from Norway.

His Excellency Bishop Schneider: I had my place close to the ecumenical delegation, and there was a Lutheran bishop from Norway. At the coffee break, I spoke with him, and asked him about the manner the Lutherans were receiving Holy Communion. He answered me that maybe until ten years ago almost all received Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue, but nowadays the rite changed. I asked him in which way they changed the rite of Communion. He answered me: ‘Now we introduced the manner to receive Communion standing and in the hand.’ I asked him why they changed the rite. He answered, saying literally: ‘Because of the influence of our Catholic brothers.’

[1] The Bishop’s book Dominus Est [It Is the Lord!] was published in the spring of 2008 in Italian by the publishing house of the Holy See (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Cittá del Vaticano 2008)  and was soon translated into English, German, Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian and Chinese. The book is martyrological and patristic evidence of, and witness to, the Catholic Church’s ancient practice and principle of receiving Holy Communion, indicating that administering and receiving the Sacrament cannot be separated from the adoration of the Lord. Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and knees, where reception and adoration are inextricably interwoven, is the most worthy manner of taking the Sacrament. The general modern practice of receiving Communion in the hand is related to the Lord’s Supper of the Calvinists, who deny the Real Presence. 

[2] The Year of the Eucharist announced by Pope John Paul II was opened by the 48th International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on 10-17 October 2004. The Year of the Eucharist was closed by the 11th General Synod of Bishops on 2-29 October 2005. The theme of the synod was chosen by Pope John Paul II: “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the life and vocation of the Church.”

Following the synod, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic exhortation entitled “Sacramentum Caritatis”, summarizing the reflections and recommendations formulated at the last general assembly of the synod of bishops, including a wide range of documents from Lineamenta [Outline] to Propositiones [Recommendations], taking into consideration the Instrumentum laboris [Working Document], Relationes ante et post disceptationem [Reports before and after the debate], the comments of the Synod Fathers, the observers and the lay delegates, to determine some basic directions in which new Eucharistic initiatives and zeal are to be promoted in the Church. (cf. SC 5)

[3] Even today the general rule is that the faithful must receive Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling, cf. RS 90. Administering Communion in the hand is an “indult” or concession granted by Pope Paul VI under the conditions specified by the Holy See. (Memoriale Domini, the Instruction on the Manner of Administering Holy Communion; The Congregation for Divine Worship on May 29, 1969. AAS LXI (1969) 541–547.)

[4] Thursday, 22nd May 2008

[5] On 11 February 2013 Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his resignation from papacy to the council of cardinals due to his diminished strength, so “as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is..

[6] At a Pontifical Mass in Leuca during his visit to Apulia on 14-15 June 2008, Pope Benedict XVI administered Communion only on the tongue of the kneeling faithful. From that day on the Holy Father has set a good example of distributing Communion in the most worthy manner. In an interview of 25 June 2008 to the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Master of papal ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini said that from then on the faithful would have to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling at papal masses as the general rule, which had often been the case before. Guido Marini said: “It is to be noted that, in legal terms, administering communion in the hand is still subject to special permission, which has been granted only to bishops of some bishops’ conferences. The procedure of the Pope is aimed to highlight the legal force of the general rule to be applied in the whole Church.”

[7] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger says: “Holy Communion will only attain its real richness if it is sustained and surrounded by adoration”(Der Geist der Liturgie. Eine Einführung, Freiburg 2002, p. 78).In the Apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum caritatis”, Pope Benedict XVI states with regard to the reception of Holy Communion: “Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive.” (SC 66.)

[8] That second synod of the new millennium was attended by 256 Synod Fathers from 118 countries of the world, including 55 cardinals, 8 patriarchs, 82 archbishops, 123 bishops, 36 presidents of bishops’ conferences and 12 religious brothers and sisters as well as 12 representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches.