The auxiliary bishop of Astana (Kazakhstan), Bishop Athanasius Schneider, was among the organizers of the CISP (International Coordination Summorum Pontifcum) pilgrimage that brought a thousand traditional-minded Catholics from around the world to Rome the weekend of October 24-27, 2013.
Bishop Schneider was the celebrant of one of the three pontifical Masses that were celebrated in the extraordinary form (he did so in the traditional parish church of Santissima TrinitÀ dei Pellegrini, while the other two took place in St. Peter’s Basilica and in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, with the former being graced by a message of the pope through his secretary of state). He also presented his latest book at the Centro Russia Ecumenica, few steps away from the Vatican. The book is titled Corpus Christi, la Santa Comunione e il rinnovamento della Chiesa (“Body of Christ: Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church”), and is focused on the need—indeed, the obligation—for every faithful Catholic to have a special devotion and proper respect and reverence for the Holy Eucharist.
It was precisely thanks to this devotion, Bishop Schneider said during his presentation, that his family survived amid unimaginably harsh conditions, fostering and preserving their Catholic Faith in the then-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan in central Asia, where they had been deported by Stalin due to their German origin. Bishop Schneider described his family’s shock when they were allowed to move back to West Germany exactly 40 years ago and became aware that in the West there were Catholics who received the holy host in their hand and standing. All the more shocking, for him, was having a priest tell him (he was 15-16 years old at that time) that it was the system used in the early Church and if he really wanted to be a traditionalist, he ought to comply with it. But he felt in his heart that this could not have been so, and found support for his intuition years later in his studies of ancient and patristic-era liturgies.
Bishop Schneider refutes this notion in his most recent book, as well as in his previous one, titled Dominus Est, riflessioni di un vescovo dell’Asia Centrale sulla sacra comunione (“It’s the Lord: Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion”). It was the manuscript of this earlier book that he managed to deliver to Benedict XVI, with an accompanying letter imploring, “In the name of Jesus Christ…see to it that when you administer Communion, all the faithful should receive It from your hands only on their knees and in their mouth. This would set an example for all.” To Bishop Schneider’s great surprise, five weeks later the nuncio in Kazakhstan gave him a sealed and confidential letter from the Vatican: it was the pope’s answer, which included this statement, in German: “Ihre Argumente sind überzeugend” (“Your arguments are convincing”). The author interpreted this reply as a green-light for the publication of his book, which was subsequently released by the LEV (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house).
The book was published in early 2008. Pope Benedict XVI started to administer the Body of Our Lord directly on the tongue of the faithful on their knees with the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi in Rome on May 25, 2008.