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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. Last Sunday, when I attended Holy Mass, during the distribution of Holy Communion, there was an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) who assisted the priest in the distribution of the Eucharist. I noticed two things that disturbed me. First of all, the EMHC blessed the children and adults who did not receive Holy Communion, having their arms crossed against their chest. Secondly, he went to the back of the Church to distribute Holy Communion to a parishioner who had limited walking capability. After giving Communion to the man, at the request of the person, he also blessed him. My question is, are these blessings during Holy Communion permitted?

A. 1. The wording of your question is quite interesting. I think you asked something that you did not intend on asking. I believe the question you intended on asking was:

- Are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion allowed to bless the people during the distribution of the Holy Communion?

Instead, you asked:

- Are blessings allowed during the distribution of the Holy Communion?

I will address both questions.

First of all, no one, not even the priest, according to the liturgy of the Holy Mass, is instructed (or permitted) to bless anyone during the distribution of the Holy Communion. The faithful are all blessed together at the end of the Mass. Is that blessing not good enough?

Some EMHC have indicated that the priests instructed them to bless those who's arms are crossed against their chest. On this matter it should be stated that the priests do not have the authority to change the liturgy of the Holy Mass, nor to make such a comment.

So what should be done when someone approached the priest or the EMHC with his arm crossed against his chest? Some Churches have adopted the practiced of smiling at the person. Others have adopted the practice of saying "May God Bless You." While none of these actions are approved by the Vatican, at least they do not confuse the public in believing that it is alright to give blessings during Holy Communion or that the EMHC has the authority to give blessings.

Addressing the first question, are the EMHC allowed to give blessings? According to the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, "No!"

I quote the Code of Canon Law:

"Can. 1169 1. Those marked with the episcopal character and presbyters permitted by law or legitimate grant can perform consecrations and dedications validly.

2. Any presbyter can impart blessings except those reserved to the Roman Pontiff or bishops.

3. A deacon can impart only those blessings expressly permitted by law."

There is no reference whatsoever to the EMHC being allowed to impart blessings upon the faithful. Only the presbyter (the priest) or a deacon under certain circumstances can impart (give) blessings.

To summarize the answer to your question, no one can give a blessing to the faithful during the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there is no mention of it in the Liturgy of the Holy Mass, it is forbidden. No one can make changes to the Holy Mass. (Ref: Dominae Cenae, element 12; Code of Canon Law, 1983, Paragraph # 838 & # 846.1; Sacrosanctum Concilium # 22]

Based on the aforementioned, the giving of blessings during the distribution of Holy Communion should be immediately stopped because it is an abuse of the Liturgy.

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