Reception of Holy Communion in the Hand

As COVID infections surge around Australia, updated Archdiocesan protocols were issued last week, reinforcing many of those adopted back in July 2020.

Of concern to some is the instruction that Archdiocesan priests are to give communion by hand only, rather than placing the wafers on worshippers’ tongues, as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

Acknowledging the sensitivity of asking all members of the faithful to receive Holy Communion in the hand – and not on the tongue, Fr Tony Percy, Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, emphasised that it is “in accord with sound reason, unity in our communities and the good of the faithful,” to implement these protocols.

In his 2020 letter to Archdiocesan priests and parishes, Fr Percy reminded everyone that “receiving Holy Communion in the hand is an ancient custom” revived in the Western Church in the early 1970s.

In the first centuries of Christianity, receiving the body of Jesus in the hand was the norm, not the exception.

“In the first century, St. Cyril instructed those preparing for Baptism that, when they received Holy Communion, they should place one hand on top of the other (palms up) in order to make a throne to ‘receive the King’”, Fr Percy explained.

“The faithful should be assured that in receiving Communion in the hand they are acting in accord with past generations of believers.”

Receiving the host in the hand has been an option in Australia since the bishops authorised this in 1975, and the Holy See confirmed it.

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Wordpress (13)
  • Dr Brendan Long 2 years

    Very well written by Fr Tony

  • Anne Thompson 2 years

    As the body of the Church we should all receive the body of Christ the same way in our hands

    • Patricia 2 years

      Do your research, you will be surprised what you will find out…..

  • Peter Gain 2 years

    As an acolyte of 40+ plus years standing and conscious of the discomfort of some of our traditional communicants at the thought of receiving the Sacrament other than on the tongue, I would suggest to the VG that there are ways of dealing with this problem other than with a sledgehammer. Our way has been to request those who wish to receive the Sacrament other than in their hands to present at the end of the queue. This appears to have been accepted.

    Peter Gain, Gundagai

  • Nola Beatty 2 years

    About time this was addressed. I could not believe that during Covid it was announced that Holy Communion could be taken on the tongue putting people at risk. I withdrew from being a special minister because of that ruling. 

    • Anne Prendergast 2 years

      I see Holy Communion on the tongue as very unhygienic, with or without Covid 19.

    • patricia 2 years

      Glad you withdrew from being a Eucharistic Minister as this Ministry is only reserved for a Priest with Consecrated hands…
      More so in these times when the congregation is much smaller…Besides, if there is a fellow priest or Brother at the
      Mass, it is their duty to hand out Holy Communion, unless of course when the need arises with a packed Church and only
      one Priest…

  • Gavin O'Brien 2 years

    With respect for the opinion expressed by Peter Gain, I strongly support Father Percy’s response to this custom. As an Acolyte myself since 1983, now retired, I believe not only is it a custom that has a long history, it is far safer than placing the Sacred Host on the tongue of the communicant which I found quite distasteful. I am very pleased that the issue has now been addressed.

  • Colliss Parrett 2 years

    is origin of hand from the Latin manus ?

  • Sabina Van Rooy 2 years

    Thanks for the update. We need to be reminded of the need to protect all in our community…. especially these giving out Communion at the Eucharist.

  • Matt Casey 2 years

    “Do not put the Lord to the test”. Please accept the instructions based on the ancient traditions and the best medical advice 

  • anne Huebner 2 years

    When communion in the hand was introduced, a beautiful priest MonsignorFrank,I have forgotten his last name, suggested to his congregations “what a privelege to hold the Lord in your hands, before he holds you in His”. As a retired Acolyte in our parish I found it difficult to give people communion on the tongue.