By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said he thinks it is time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand.
Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the Vatican official, made the suggestion in the preface to a book about the Eucharist by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan.
Bishop Schneider's book, "Dominus Est: Reflections of a Bishop from Central Asia on Holy Communion," was published in Italian in late January by the Vatican Publishing House, though some of it had been released earlier in the Vatican newspaper.
In the newly released preface to the book, Archbishop Ranjith wrote, "The Eucharist, bread transubstantiated into the body of Christ and wine into the blood of Christ -- God in our midst -- must be received with awe and an attitude of humble adoration."
The archbishop said the Second Vatican Council never authorized the practice of Catholics receiving Communion in the hand, a practice that was "introduced abusively and hurriedly in some spheres" and only later authorized by the Vatican.
The liturgists, theologians and pastors who encouraged the change said it better reflected the ancient practice of the church and the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, he said.
"It is true that if one can receive on the tongue, one also can receive in the hand because this organ of the body has equal dignity," he said.
However, Archbishop Ranjith said, the introduction of the practice of receiving Communion in the hand coincides with the beginning of "a gradual and growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the sacred eucharistic species."
"I think the time has come to evaluate these practices and to review them and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice," Archbishop Ranjith said.
"Now more than ever, it is necessary to help the faithful renew a lively faith in the real presence of Christ in the eucharistic species with the aim of reinforcing the very life of the church and defending it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith," the archbishop wrote.
The bulk of Bishop Schneider's book was published in early January in the Vatican newspaper; he said that if a Catholic truly believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, he or she should kneel in adoration and reverence when receiving Communion.
The article in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, appeared under the headline, "Like a nursing child in the arms of the one who nourishes him" and included the bishop's opinion that just as a baby opens his mouth to receive nourishment from his mother, so should Catholics open their mouths to receive nourishment from Jesus.