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Vatican official suggests lowering age of first Holy Communion

By on Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera celebrates Mass (CNS)

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera celebrates Mass (CNS)

Children today are maturing so quickly that it might be time to consider allowing them to receive their first Holy Communion even before their seventh birthdays, the head of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has said.

“A child’s first Communion is like the beginning of a journey with Jesus, in communion with him: the beginning of a friendship destined to last and to grow for his entire life,” wrote Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera.

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”.

“Let us not deprive them of the gift of God,” the cardinal wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

The cardinal’s article marked the 100th anniversary of the decree of Pope Pius X, Quam Singulari Christus Amore (“How Special Christ’s Love”), which reversed the decades-old practice of delaying first Communion until a child was 10 or 12.

St Pius said delaying the reception of Communion until long after the child reaches “the age of reason”, generally accepted to be about seven years of age, was the result of the erroneous belief that “the most holy Eucharist is a reward rather than a remedy for human frailty”.

The late pope pointed out that the ancient tradition of the Church, still kept by many of the Eastern Catholic churches, was to give babies Communion immediately after their baptism. The practice died out in the West, largely because of concerns that the baby would spit out the consecrated bread and wine.

“This practice of preventing the faithful from receiving, on the plea of safeguarding the august sacrament, has been the cause of many evils. It happened that children in their innocence were forced away from the embrace of Christ and deprived of the food of their interior life,” Pope Pius wrote.

In his article, Cardinal Cañizares said that Pope Pius’s insistence on the careful preparation of children to receive first Communion still stands, but so does his concern that children have access to the grace that will help them be good and to mature into strong Christians.

“The encounter with Jesus is the strength we need in order to live with happiness and hope,” he wrote.

“We cannot, by delaying first Communion, deprive children – the soul and the spirit of children – of this grace,” he said.

The cardinal said he wanted to use the anniversary of St. Pius’ decree to remind pastors that children should receive first Communion when they have “the use of reason, which today seems to be even sooner” than age seven.

A recent trend of delaying Communion, he said, is not recommended, “on the contrary, it is even more necessary to anticipate.”

The sacrament “is the guarantee of their growth as children of God, generated by the sacraments of Christian initiation in the bosom of Holy Mother Church”, he said.

  • Jackie Parkes

    I agree that the age should be lowered if a child has reached the age of understanding of the True Presence. One of my daughters was 6 years old & another made hers with the class above so she would still be 7 years old & not nearly 9 if left with the new arrangements when they made their First Holy Communions in Y3 instead of 2. I'm thinking my 10th child needs to make her Confirmation very soon as she is very prepared & knowledgeable instead of waiting 2 more years. She is 9 years old. An interesting & timely post.

  • Frustrated parent

    My child, 7, is being made to wait another year to prepare with the view to receiving her Sacraments in 2012 when she will be 9. Other children in the same group are currently 9, they will be 11. It all seems to hinge on the opinion and/or convenience of one catechist. Others have offered to conduct preparations and have been turned away.

  • Pardepidemos

    Along with our Coptic and Orthodox brothers and sisters, those in the Eastern Catholic Rites give Communion to a child when it is baptised and confirmed. There is no real reason to delay Communion until a person understands, otherwise the Copts, Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics wouldn't do it. Who amongst us really understands the power, beauty and mystery of what we receive? I believe that the ancient practice of being Baptised, Confirmed and receiving Holy Communion should be brought back throughout Catholicism for those who wish.

  • Dominic

    My experience in Australia is that today, First Communion is now Last Communion – due largely to faulty catechesis and the deplorable standard of religious education in many schools, undertaken by nominal catholics , usually with an aggressive feminist and anti-church agenda. OK, start howling me down. It remains the case though.

  • Paul_mather1

    The cardinal'ssuggestion that the age for receiving Holy Communion should be lowered sounds right in principle but my concern is that since Vatican 2, respect and devotion, have taken a downturn and allowing chidren so young to receive in the hand would be a disaster——-on the tongue—possibly.
    Paul Mather, St. Helens, L'pool Archdiocese.

  • Julia Nutwood

    Can't the “frustrated parent” just finish the preparation of her child for Holy Communion herself and then arrange for her child to make her First Holy Communion privately? That's what I did. I didn't wait for the rest of the class to make their communion since I knew my child was ready in Year 1 and didn't want him to wait until Year 2. He received communion on the tongue so there's no danger of disrepect due to his age.

  • Jamesnelsonwork2

    10 children. You've had 10 children, yet given none of them freedom of belief. Why not leave them till they are adult and can think fully for themselves – if they decide to go with your religion then so be it – at least they would have had an informed maturely-made choice. Children believe anything they're told – the church knows this and wants to get them young. It is child abuse plain and simple. Them being scared by hellfire, guilt e.t.c. is just sick.

  • Jamesnelsonwork2

    p.s. having 10 children is clearly what should be an eco-crime. If we all had 10 children, what would happen to CO2 levels and availability of food, energy and water??? I suggest you youtube 'attenborough overpopulation' and watch. We currently need one and a half planet Earth's to sustain ourselves. i.e., we are by far over populated in our lifestyle as it is.

  • Arnd

    I think 7 years old is much too young for such a life changing thing. Why not wait until adulthood?

  • NMcC

    Yes, that's the right and proper thing to do: get them as young as possible – even younger than you are able to at present – at any rate, before they are old enough to think for themselves and realise that they are being abused and brainwashed with an evil load of nonsense.

    You people are mentally sick. To think that some decrepid old foolish man in a dress and a clown's hat can get support for such degenerate proposals from people like the posters above – with some of them practically drooling at the thought of handing over their babes to be included in this kind of disgusting, filthy ritual – makes me sick.

    With any luck the kids themselves will get free from your clutches when they are older and will end up holding their parents in the contempt they will deserve.

  • Mark73900

    Indoctrinate them into superstition at a younger age… It's the only way to fight reason.

  • Demus

    On the one hand I'm not sure there is any harm in giving an entirely normal cracker to a young child. It won't have any effect on them. On the other the idea of feeding the magically reconstituted flesh of a 2000 year old dead guy to someone who doesnt really understand the implications seems a little off…

  • Zengardener

    A good indicator that a child has developed his/her critical thinking skills is if they refuse to believe in magical crackers. They shouldn't be offered communion until they are wise enough to know that it is bunk.