The Bishop of Santa Rosa has ordered an immediate halt to Communion services in his diocese where a priest is not present, saying such services are “not consistent with the Instructions from the Holy See”.

Bishop Robert Vasa told Catholics in his Californian diocese that the services must cease as of August 1, citing an Instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued in 2004. The Instruction says that diocesan bishops “should not easily grant permission” for Communion Services without a priest to be held on weekdays “especially in places where it was possible or would be possible to have the celebration of Mass on the preceding or the following Sunday.”

Bishop Vasa said it had become popular in several parishes and institutions in the diocese for deacons and laity to hold Communion Services on both Sundays and weekdays when a priest is not available to say Mass.

“The practice, while popular, is not consistent with the Instructions from the Holy See,” the bishop said. “Our respect for the Most Holy Eucharist requires that we take very seriously the Directives of the Church.

“Opinions about what should be done in our Parishes will certainly vary but what surrounds the Eucharist demands of us a deep fidelity to the Church and her Instructions.”

Bishop Vasa therefore ordered that Communion Services without a priest on Sundays and weekdays should cease, and added that “those who have been asked to do them in the past may no longer do so.”

Parish priests should instead make arrangements for the laity to hold prayer services according to the Liturgy of the Hours, such as Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, or to hold a Liturgy of the Word (first half the Mass only). “Only a Deacon may preach,” the bishop added.

“These Services are to be conducted without the Distribution of Holy Communion.”

Bishop Vasa also said that those who have the duty of bringing Holy Communion to the sick and housebound should “under no circumstances” reserve the Blessed Sacrament in their own homes.

Catholic Herald