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Lutherans receiving Communion in St Peter’s was a ‘mistake’, says spokesman

It was reported that the priest celebrating the Mass knew that they were Lutheran (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Finland has reiterated that the Catholic Church has not changed its teachings on who may receive Holy Communion, after a group of Finnish Lutherans received the Eucharist in St Peter’s Basilica.

In a statement issued last week, Marko Tervaportti, director of the Catholic Information Centre in Helsinki, said that only members of the Catholic Church “in a state of grace” may receive the Eucharist, with some “special exceptions”.

The Finnish news agency Kotimaa reported that the priests celebrating the Mass were aware that the group, led by their bishop, Samuel Salmi of Oulu, were aware that they were Lutherans.

In his statement, Tervaportti rejected speculation about a “new ecumenical attitude” at the Vatican, saying that the Church’s doctrine and practice “has not changed in recent years and decades.”

He also said that Pope Francis’s new approach “is not a sign that the Catholic Church is going to change its practice with regard to the distribution of the Holy Eucharist,” but rather it is a “sign” for Catholics to be more cautious about examining their conscience.

Tervaportti said: “For Catholics the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit’ of our Christian life. It is, as it were, our credo. We carefully prepare to receive it, and confess our serious sins and fast (even shortly) before receiving it.

“We adjust our lives so that we might receive the Lord’s Supper worthily,” he continued, “knowing that ‘Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord’ (1. Cor. 11:27).”

He added that “not every person distributing the Holy Eucharist knows every point of teaching and practice of the Church” and so “mistakes” can occur.