Vatican bans use of gluten-free holy bread during Mass
Holy Communion bread must not be gluten-free, the Vatican has ruled. In a letter to bishops worldwide, Cardinal Robert Sarah ruled the unleavened bread can be made with genetically modified organisms, but cannot be entirely gluten-free.
However, the Coeliac Society of Ireland has moved to reassure its members that low-gluten holy bread is safe to take – following the new guidelines by the Church.
CEO Fergal O’Sullivan told the Irish Independent that a letter sent by the Vatican this weekend detailing permitted ingredients of the host bread was merely a clarification from the Church.
The move came because the bread is now easily purchased in supermarkets and online, according to the cardinal.
“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,” the cardinal said.
Mr O’Sullivan said the move came after some companies were using rice or corn as a host as opposed to wheat, though he insisted this was not an issue in Ireland.
“The issuing of the clarification seems in the main to have been a restatement of the Church’s requirement that host is made only from wheat, as there were some companies [not in Ireland] that were manufacturing hosts with rice, corn or gluten-free wheat starch with additives, none of which are acceptable,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“According to the Vatican, to be a valid host, sufficient gluten must be present to bring about confection of the bread,” he added.
Mr O’Sullivan said his society has been inundated with calls from members over the development, but explained that despite Communion bread not being entirely gluten-free, it will be at a low enough level that it is safe for Coeliacs.
“Hosts with this sufficient level of gluten can be deemed gluten-free by the agreed international standard when they contain less than 20 parts per million,” he said.
“The Catholic Church, however, refer to these as ‘low gluten’, which has a different meaning for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons,” he added.
Despite the reassurances, low-gluten Communion bread is not available in churches nationwide, with altar wine the other option for those with gluten intolerances.