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Gluten-free communion wafers debated by Vatican

Lana Bandoim's picture
Holy Communion

People with celiac disease have been facing an unusual challenge in church because they cannot eat wheat. The Catholic Church previously decided that gluten-free communion wafers could not be used, so people with gluten sensitivities were not able to participate in communion. However, there has been a recent change after many debates that may help.


The Vatican has stated that communion wafers cannot be used unless they contain wheat because of biblical references to the grain. This has left people who cannot tolerate gluten in a difficult position. Although the Catholic Church does not allow gluten-free wafers, other churches and religious organizations have made adjustments for people with celiac disease. There are reports from Episcopal and Methodist churches that have a version of the wafer available without gluten.

The Catholic Church has declared that to “consecrate a host [with] something other than wheat and water” would be wrong. However, after researching gluten-free communion wafers, Vicar Mark Merdian believes he has found a solution that will please both the church and people with celiac disease. He discovered communion wafers being made by the Benedictine sisters that have 100 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. Although this is higher than the recommended 20 ppm from the FDA, he considers this a solution to a difficult problem. Since the wafers technically still have a very small amount of wheat, the Vatican will allow them to be used.

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There is another problem that people with celiac disease often face in church during communion, and it involves sharing the wine. Despite some churches allowing two versions of the wafers (with gluten and without), they still tend to use one wine cup. The chances of gluten contamination are high in these cases, so some people recommend talking to church leaders about creating a separate line for gluten-free cups.

Read more about celiac disease:
Celiac disease tips for making bread at home
Celiac disease apps help create gluten-free meal plans

Image: Jonathunder/Wikimedia Commons



Thank goodness I am not Catholic. My church has a gluten free communion wafer and separate chalice for wine available for every communion. I don't like the idea of an exclusionary religious practice.
Does this surprise you! Catholic church is always behind on everything.
I don't think the Catholic Church has ever offered gluten free hosts. I don't think this is a change in policy because they never did offer gluten free hosts. The only ones the Catholic Church has ever approved were the low gluten ones. The label states that people with Celiac should talk to their doctor because that does mean that people (who shouldn't be ingesting any gluten) are ingesting gluten. However, they claim that low of a ppm won't make someone "sick."