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Assurance on communion wafers from Liturgical Commission head

Fr Peter Williams of the National Liturgical Commission has given an assurance that the Church is determined to avoid causing alarm to communicant Catholics whose health is threatened by communion wafers containing gluten.

He told The Age that especially sensitive coeliac sufferers are able to receive communion by leaving the wafer and taking wine from the chalice instead.

"But very sensitive sufferers are not going to be disbarred from sacred communion because they can receive communion in just one kind," he said.

Catholics with wheat allergies may suffer a reaction to the eucharist following a Vatican directive that the wafer must contain wheat. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently determined that only wheat-based flour is valid matter for celebrating the eucharist.

A new formula using wheaten cornflour went into production in Sydney this week, Fr Williams confirmed yesterday. Gluten-free communion wafer production has stopped in favour of low-gluten wafers.

The Coeliac Society of Australia has warned that, even at the new level of 200 parts per million of gluten, many sensitive coeliac sufferers, who are allergic to gluten, will be affected.

Gluten damages the lining of the bowel in those allergic to it, stopping food absorption. It can cause cancer, but Mr Price suggested the most likely effect of the low-gluten wafers would be diarrhoea.

"The church would not deliberately attempt to poison its communicant members," said Fr Williams. "The last thing we want is to alarm Catholic coeliac sufferers."

He suggested people with coeliac disease could try the new formula, saying: "Hosts are no bigger than a 20 cent piece and very thin - we're not talking slices of bread here.

Ozanam Industries, Australia's largest producer of communion hosts, has been producing gluten-free wafers from maize cornflour, which does not affect coeliacs. Company spokeswoman Allyson Morrison said it began producing low-gluten wafers on Wednesday. Ordinary wafers are made from baker's flour and water.

Wafers must have wheat, says Vatican (The Age 20/8/04)

Health alert over new formula communion hosts (CathNews 18/8/04)
Norms for Use of Low-Gluten Bread and "Mustum" (
Vatican document draws new attention to low-gluten hosts and 'mustum' (Catholic News Service/Georgia Bulletin 4/5/04)
Redemptioris Sacramentum
Vatican document draws new attention to low-gluten hosts and 'mustum' (Catholic News Service 23/4/04)
Coeliac Society of Australia
NSW Coeliac Society
Girl's First Communion Nixed Over Wheat-Free Wafer (Associated Press/ 12/8/04)
Ozanam Industries
Italian bishops approve low-gluten host for celiac disease sufferers (CathNews 9/1/02)

20 Aug 2004