Experts have dismissed inaccurate media reports that the Vatican has issued a new ban on gluten-free Communion hosts, reassuring coeliacs that they can continue to receive the Eucharist.
Over the weekend numerous news organisations across the world announced that the Vatican had banned the use of gluten-free bread in hosts, following the publication of a letter to bishops by Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
At the request of Pope Francis, the letter reminded bishops that it is their responsibility to “watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist”, emphasising that the bread must be made only with wheat and not completely gluten-free.
“The statement is not anything new,” said Fr Christopher Fitzgerald, Director of Liturgy in the Diocese of Cork and Ross. “It is a restatement or reiteration of what has always been the position – that the bread used for making Communion hosts has to have some portion of gluten. So it must be a natural untainted product without any additives like sugar.
“In recent years low gluten hosts are used widely and nothing that has pertained up to now regarding coeliac Holy Communion has changed.”
Fergal O’Sullivan, CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland also confirmed that “nothing has changed from the existing direction”.
“According to the Vatican, to be a valid host, sufficient gluten must be present to bring about confection of the bread,” he said, continuing that hosts “with this sufficient level of gluten can be deemed gluten-free by the agreed international standard (codex) when they contain less than 20 parts per million” but would be considered low gluten by the Church.
Coeliac disease occurs in one in every 100 people in Ireland.