Circular Letter on Bread and Wine

An English translation of the “Circular letter to Bishops on the bread and wine for the Eucharist” is now circulating publicly. (Full English translation here.) This is a document published by the Congregation for Diovine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) at the request of Pope Francis.

Rather than pick apart the text word by word, here are a few highlights of interest.

It is for the Bishop as principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, moderator, promoter and guardian of the liturgical life in the Church entrusted to his care (Cf. CIC can. 835 § 1), to watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist and also those who prepare these materials. In order to be of assistance we recall the existing regulations and offer some practical suggestions.

There is nothing really new here in terms of legislation, but the tone is illustrative regarding the “practical suggestions.” The CDWDS notes that once religious communities prepared Eucharistic bread and wine, but that today many parishes look to secular sources. Reminding bishops of GIRM 319-323, they pass on the following responsibility to those who pastor parishes:

… remind priests, especially parish priests and rectors of churches, of their responsibility to verify those who provide the bread and wine for the celebration and the worthiness of the material.

And producers:

… to provide information to the producers of the bread and wine for the Eucharist and to remind them of the absolute respect that is due to the norms.

Redemptionis Sacramentum 48 and 50 are also cited. We blogged about those here. This letter skips over RS 49, one of the weaker parts of that document.

One interesting development that caught my eye was some print devoted to those who have allergies or other serious problems with the substance of wheat and wine. Low gluten bread and mustum were addressed in a CDF (not CDWDS) circular letter of 2003 addressed to presidents of bishops’ conferences. So these reminders resurfaced:

“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread” (A. 1-2).

Gluten-free bread doesn’t have the “feel” of real bread. Some varieties of low-gluten hosts have more the appearance of chips–not just sight, but sound and touch.

Permission for mustum for clergy dates back to the 1980s, but the CDF gave some specifics:

“Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist” (A. 3).

Back in the 80s, mustum could not be given to lay people, but this was updated in 2003:

“The Ordinary is competent to give permission for an individual priest or layperson to use low-gluten hosts or mustum for the celebration of the Eucharist. Permission can be granted habitually, for as long as the situation continues which occasioned the granting of permission” (C. 1).


The same Congregation also decided that Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified organisms can be considered valid matter (cf. Letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 9 December 2013, Prot. N. 89/78 – 44897).

This may be directed at parish bakers and vintners:

Those who make bread and produce wine for use in the Mass must be aware that their work is directed towards the Eucharistic Sacrifice and that this demands their honesty, responsibility and competence.

A useful suggestion that nods at the competence of bishops on the conference level:

In order to facilitate the observance of the general norms Ordinaries can usefully reach agreement at the level of the Episcopal Conference by establishing concrete regulations. Given the complexity of situations and circumstances, such as a decrease in respect for the sacred, it may be useful to mandate a competent authority to have oversight in actually guaranteeing the genuineness of the Eucharistic matter by producers as well as those responsible for its distribution and sale.

It is suggested, for example, that an Episcopal Conference could mandate one or more Religious Congregations or another body capable of carrying out the necessary checks on production, conservation and sale of the Eucharistic bread and wine in a given country and for other countries to which they are exported. It is recommended that the bread and wine to be used in the Eucharist be treated accordingly in the places where they are sold.

Any thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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