CHILDREN are maturing so quickly under so many different influences that it might be time to allow them to receive First Holy Communion before their seventh birthday, the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has said.

Cardinal Antonio Cafiizares Liovera 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.”

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.

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

St Pius said that delaying 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”.

Cardinal Caflizares said that the pope’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 ... of this grace.”

By Cindy Wooden in Rome, CNS

Q:IS IT RIGHT for the priest to celebrate First Holy Communion in the children’s houses instead of in the Church and ask the parents to give Communion to their children?

A: Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum no.87. The First Communion of children must always be preceded by sacramental confession and absolution. Moreover First Communion should always be administered by a Priest and never outside the celebration of Mass.

The Place for the celebration of Holy Mass

Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum no.108. “The celebration of the Eucharist is to be carried out in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise. In this case the celebration must be in a decent place.” The diocesan Bishop shall be the judge for his diocese concerning this necessity, on a case-by-case basis. n

The Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission

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