Catholic bishops discuss celiac disease connection to communion

Lana Bandoim's picture

Celiac disease was one of the topics of discussion at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Maryland. The bishops voted to change the Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, so people with celiac disease and other health conditions would not be left out of communion. One of the problems seen in multiple churches has been the requirement that communion wafers contain wheat.

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The Catholic bishops agreed that the Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities was outdated and needed to be modified. Since its approval in 1995, there has been a call to make the document fit modern society better. The Eucharistic wafer is one of the topics that will have to be changed because the previous requirement only allowed wafers with wheat due to biblical references to the grain.

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Some Catholic churches attempted to accommodate people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease by offering them low gluten communion wafers. However, there were concerns that the small amount of the protein could still lead to problems over time. Most people preferred to have wafers with no gluten or wafers meeting the FDA requirement of 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. The low gluten versions approved by the church generally did not meet the FDA requirements.

The Catholic bishops also addressed how people with other health conditions such as autism could receive Holy Communion. Their goal is to make the Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities a better document that will accommodate more people by understanding their unique needs. The Vatican has approved a low gluten communion wafer made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in the past, so there is hope that a no gluten version may appear in Catholic churches in the future.

Read more about celiac disease:
Celiac disease tips for handling gluten on Thanksgiving
Gluten-free gravy shopping and cooking tips for celiac disease

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