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This week Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the Vatican official responsible for worship and the sacraments, suggested that children be allowed to receive first Holy Communion before their seventh birthday.

Today, he said, “children live immersed in a thousand difficulties, surrounded by a difficult environment that does not encourage them to be what God wants them to be”.

A child’s first Communion, he said, was “like the beginning of a journey with Jesus… the beginning of a friendship destined to last and to grow for his entire life”.

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But can children younger than seven truly grasp the doctrine of the Real Presence? Is it not more important to ensure they have a firm grasp of its significance?

On the other hand, children develop at different rates. If they are well prepared, it seems sensible for them not to wait unnecessarily. And it is better, surely, for the “journey with Jesus” to start as early as possible.

So, should the age for first Holy Communion be lowered?

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