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Lutheran Group Reportedly Given Holy Communion in St. Peter's Basilica

Priests seem to have known the group were Lutherans but gave them Holy Communion anyway, contravening canon law.

01/21/2016 Comments (53)

St. Peter's basilica. Photo: Edward Pentin/

A Lutheran group from Finland, led by their bishop, Samuel Salmi of Oulu, reportedly received Holy Communion in St  Peter’s basilica this week, despite indicating to the priests present that they were ineligible to do so.

According to Finnish news agency Kotimaa, and reported here in Estonian, the priests celebrating the Mass were aware that they were Lutherans.

The report said that at the time of Communion, the Finnish Lutherans put their right hand on their left shoulder to show they could not receive the Eucharist and wanted to receive a blessing instead. 

The Finnish Lutheran bishop said the priests distributing Communion ignored the sign and offered the Lutherans Communion anyway. The bishop also received the Eucharist.

The report said the youth choir from Finland sung at the Mass, and Bishop Salmi was asked to greet those present on behalf of the Finnish Lutherans. So there was no doubt who they were. 

Bishop Salmi said Pope Francis was not present at the Mass, but said the Pope had repeatedly indicated he would like to develop unity between different denominations. The bishop, who in 2011 said homosexuals should have "full rights" in the Lutheran church, also told the news agency that Pope Francis has theological enemies in the Vatican and so may be limited in how freely he can speak.

In November, the Pope said that a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic should "talk to the Lord" before receiving Holy Communion, although Francis himself did not give her permission to do so.

The Pope's words were understood by Rome's Lutheran community to mean that Lutherans could receive Holy Communion, in accordance with their conscience, although such a reading was later refuted by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

A spokesman for the Finnish Catholic Church later issued this clarification, calling the distribution of Holy Communion in this instance a mistake and an obstacle to unity.

Filed under holy communion, lutherans, pope francis

About Edward Pentin

Edward Pentin
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Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of "The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family", published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin