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Archbishop gives Communion to Muslim sheik at funeral Mass for cardinal: his explanation

Walter Sanchez Silva By Walter Sanchez Silva for CNA

(Image: Josh Applegate/

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 5, 2023 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

The Archbishop of Londrina, Brazil, Geremias Steinmetz, gave Communion to a Muslim sheik at the funeral Mass for Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, who died a few days ago at the age of 89. The incident sparked controversy among Catholics and the prelate posted an explanation for what happened on the archdiocesan website.

Some people on social media questioned how the archbishop could give Communion to a Muslim sheik and criticized the prelate.

The facts

The funeral Mass was celebrated Aug. 28 in the Londrina cathedral and  the archbishop gave the Eucharist to Sheik Ahmad Saleh Mahairi of the Rei Faiçal Mosque. Following the controversy, Steinmetz addressed “the repercussions generated by the Communion administered by me” to the Islamic leader.

In an explanation posted Aug. 30, the Brazilian archbishop said that the sheik had known Cardinal Agnelo since the 1980s “as a friend, saddened by the funeral of another friend. The sheik is a well-known man in various spheres of society and maintains a respectful relationship with the Catholic Church.”

“He was also a friend of another archbishop of Londrina, the late Albano Cavallin, with whom he had a close relationship. As a friend, he participated in the Eucharistic celebration and, entering the Communion line, received the body of Christ,” Steinmetz explained.

“The images of the broadcast of the Holy Mass show Sheik Mahairi receiving the Eucharist from my hands, but they do not show him consuming it. Given the repercussions of these images, I asked the vicar general of the archdiocese of Londrina, Father Rafael Solano, to speak with the sheik to clear up the situation,” the archbishop continued.

Steinmetz then pointed out that the sheik “deeply regretted what happened, since his desire was not to disrespect the Catholic Church” and told the vicar that after receiving Jesus “he went to his pew, sat down, and consumed the Eucharist. According to him, Archbishop Albano had explained to him many years ago that the Eucharist is the body of Jesus, considered a prophet for Islam,” as noted in the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate,” (Latin: “In our time”) on the relationship of the Church with non-Christian religions.

The archbishop cites a document from Pope Francis

After this explanation, the prelate considered these points to now be “clarified” and cited some passages from the document “Desiderio Desideravi,” which Pope Francis published in 2022 and which deals with the liturgical formation of the people of God.

The Archbishop of Londrina cited No. 6 of the text, in which the Holy Father states: “But every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us. For our part, the possible response — which is also the most demanding asceticism — is, as always, that surrender to this love, that letting ourselves be drawn by him.”

Further on, Steinmetz referenced No. 65, which concludes the pope’s document and states: “Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Let us safeguard our communion. Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy. The Paschal Mystery has been given to us. Let us allow ourselves to be embraced by the desire that the Lord continues to have to eat His Passover with us. All this under the gaze of Mary, Mother of the Church.”

Who can receive Communion?

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law, the norm that regulates the universal Church establishes that “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone.”

No. 1355 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “In the communion, preceded by the Lord’s prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive “the bread of heaven” and “the cup of salvation,” the body and blood of Christ who offered himself “for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:51).

The text then cites St. Justin Martyr: “We call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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      • Of the Lutherian type; the Zwinglianisme ilk, perhaps, or some other sect? There are a lot of protestant fancies and flavors Father and some hold rather weird views about the Eucharist, let alone the Real Presence. Just because he may have been a “believing” person really doesn’t make him a brother to us Catholics, Father.

    • There is a substantial difference between a baptized Christian and an unbaptized person. By itself, the lack of baptism renders a person incapable of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, and therefore a case of sacrilege – the same as if a Catholic were to receive the Eucharist while in mortal sin.

      Presumably, Cardinal Ratzinger had the care to ensure that the Protestant believed as the Church believes regarding the Eucharist. Canon law requires this, along with baptism, even in the limited cases where bishops are allowed to make exceptions to the rule of Catholics only. Such exceptions are not necessarily prudent (there’s still the question of whether they are in error or heresy, and whether they have committed a mortal sin at any point in their lives), but they are not manifest and obvious sacrilege.

      From the sounds of it, the archbishop committed sacrilege, and according to him, he did this for the sake of human respect. One ought not commit even the smallest sin for the sake of human respect. From the sounds of it, the sheik intended no disrespect and had no reason to know. It is the archbishop’s job to know – it’s your average parish priest’s job to know – even an EMHC has the obligation to know this sort of thing, and act accordingly. It’s not bread, it’s God. Treat the Eucharist like it’s more precious than the universe, because it is.

    • This is no “precedent”. This is blasphemy. Neither the sheik or the protestant are Catholic believers with our understanding of the real presence in the Eucharist. In both cases these high churchmen who handed out communion like a party favor should have known better.The non-Catholic churchmen should never have moved up the aisle to receive to begin with.

      I would suggest that at all events with “mixed” religion attendees, an announcement should be made about this, loud and clear. Non-Catholics are NOT to receive. Period. I have heard such done at weddings and funerals so there is no reason they cannot clarify this point. Mass is not a friendship tour and should not be treated as such.

  1. FIRST, we are groomed to think that “synodality” is a dialogue among the “baptized”—with the distinct sacrament of Holy Orders seemingly reduced to a “difference in degree” and no longer a “difference in kind” (this being a corruption of the Council’s Lumen Gentium).

    So, SECOND, are we now to believe that a “pluralism” of religions erases another distinction? That is, (apart from the value of deep interpersonal attachments), is there still the difference between the revealed Catholic Faith and the beliefs of the followers of Islam? Islamic belief replaces the Incarnation of the Second Person of the eternal Trinity with the “uncreated” and dictated verses of the Qur’an. Under Islam, “The Word made flesh” is replaced by the “word made book.”
    Is it still admissible to at least think about this, and about the categorical difference between ecumenical and interreligious dialogue? What, too, of sacramental incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, versus the companionship of natural religions?

    Another progressive roadkill? Two starting points for INQUIRY:

    “Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is a monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive [!] and definitive [!] love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa, God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in extra-biblical literature” (Benedict XVI, Deus est Caritas, 2006, n. 11).

    “In religions, this [non-monogamous] attitude found expression in fertility cults, part of which was the ‘sacred’ prostitution which flourished in many temples . . . The Old Testament firmly opposed this form of religion, which represents a powerful temptation against monotheistic faith, combating it as a perversion of religiosity. But it in no way rejected eros as such; rather it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, this counterfeit divinization of eros [some versions of inclusivity?] actually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it . . . It is part of love’s growth toward higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive [!], and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity [!] (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being ‘forever” (Deus Caritas Est, nn. 4,6.)

    From Pope Benedict, the above thoughts about eros/inclusivity AND exclusivity….

    Thoughts which seem, at least, to be sidestepped by possibly unilateral inclusivity—of either indiscriminate synodality, or an ideological pluralism of religions. But, who am I to judge?

  2. When you don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, then the only remaining reality by default is that of a piece of bread. Maybe this Muslim shiek was hungry and the Archbishop thought he was “giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty.” (I do suppose the Archbishop might have refrained from giving the Precious Blood to the sheik if Communion was being distributed under both species. After all, inclusivism would have precluded giving offense to the sheik.)

  3. A further INQUIRY. Is this the Holy Spirit? The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2 (verse 3), begins with the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and the “parted tongues as of fire,” i.e., fn. “Parted tongues: in Greek, ‘tongues distributing themselves’ as from a central source.”

    A central source? Does the polyhedral Church (or polyhedral churches?) mean that there are neither coherent answers nor even coherent questions–as between the baptized and ordained, as between ecumenical and interreligious, as between universal natural law and locally accommodated?

    In any event (now, are there only events?) does the polyhedral thing appeal to its own ersatz history for precedents…as already when President Clinton received the Eucharist in 1998 and when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also did so in 2009? A tradition!

    And decentralized sources (plural and pluralist) versus parted tongues from a “central source”? For want of a shoe, a battle was lost…problem, what problem?

  4. Can’t fault the Sheik for assuming his Bishop friends knew their Catechism and cared to live it. The Sheik comes off as well met. Praying for him.
    As for some of our Bishops, one has to wonder if they would teach Scientology is they thought it pleased the Pope.

  5. You know that something is so fundamentally broken with the clergy of the NO / Vatican 2 “church” when the sheik that took the precious body of Christ had more remorse for doing so than the cleric who disbursed him against all spiritual and lawful church teachings. The AB should be required to step down and re-enter basic seminary training again. THIS, folks is what is wrong with V2 and what is staged to be a disaster of unparalleled proportions post-synod. FIND the Catholic Church by getting to a Latin Mass now – one that has some protection and insulation from this madness. IT.MATERS. Full.stop.

    • what does V2 have to do with a AB making a wrong decision and then trying to find support through others. He was wrong in his actions. The Latin Mass while beautiful in its own right isn’t the cure for this madness, it is a matter of faith.

      • Joe, the priests catechized and educated in the old tradition, what the NO church dispensed with since 1962 (arguably even before that in the case of some hot beds of heresy/modernism in Europe) would never have so easily compromised the B&B of Christ in this manner. Many of the NO priests that actually believed in the B&B of Christ in the Eucharist have been “canceled” by this gaggle of modernists in this post-V2 world. The NO church is adrift. It’s dying in a fantastic manner and is, maybe, 1-2 generations from extinction. It can’t come soon enough. If you want to know the truth of the matter, the NO church was a willing and intentional break with the Catholic Church. What we have been experiencing is the fall out of that horrific decision for the last 50 years. So much for a “pastoral council” when pastoring becomes an exercise in the embrace of heresy and apostasy.

      • Absolutely agree with you.
        And while we mention Vatican 11, it was put in place under the guidance of Almighty God. Those who “bad mouth” it do so at the peril of their immortal souls.

    • Before suggesting remedial seminary education, we might want to check that the seminaries have been fixed. From what I’ve heard, there has been significant, but insufficient improvement.

      Part of the reason the TLM has priests that wouldn’t dream of doing what the Archbishop did is that the only men who offer it were either formed in seminaries with a high quality formation process (FSSP, ICKSP) or have put in a phenomenal effort to educate themselves. This contributes to the TLM being something of an oasis in the midst of madness – and of course, it’s a lot easier to remain sane when surrounded by people who are sane. Similarly, one should not send a child into a woke school and expect them to come out sane.

  6. I would classify what the bishop said as more of an excuse than an “explanation”. So, we can just ignore almost 2,000 years of Church teaching, the Catechism and Canon Law, and go with some statements by Pope Francis. I am surprised that he didn’t use “everyone is welcome.”

    At least he didn’t propose changing Church teaching, as some Bishops and Cardinals have done with regard to homosexual acts.

  7. Mildly curious if the sheik would have similarly approached an altar rail, knelt down, and received Our Lord on the tongue—or would that have been too great an acknowledgment of the Reality.

    • Genevieve, that is an excellent question. If allowed to speculate, my guess would be the sheik would have said no thank you.

      I can’t see a Muslim religious leader committing such “idolatry” in such a public way. I mean, Pope Francis wouldn’t tolerate a public act of idolatry, would he?

  8. Personnel is policy and praxis is no less so. In Catholic context praxis reflects magisterium. The Archbishop cites Francis. The Bergoglian “magisterium” is clearly a contradiction of 2000 years of Christian praxis and magisterium.
    What is one to infer regarding the present occupant of the Chair of Saint Peter? What is a groundling to conclude?

  9. This is plainly a news agency item.
    The Holy Eucharist is not the body of Jesus it is the «Body of Christ», the Risen Lord.
    The sheikh was entitled to a blessing from the celebrant, no more.
    Dressed as he would be as a Muslim cleric he could not have been mistaken for a Catholic. even one of the many who never confess before receiving the Holy Eucharist.
    This seems where «making a mess» gets us, deep into confusion even about the «basics».

  10. What is the meaning of the binding and loosening given to Peter? Also, where in scripture are we given the right to judge? Perhaps we would be better taking the log out of our own eyes before we attempt to extract the mite out of others! 😂

    • James, the teaching of the Church is an objective reality. Too much gives way when we become the standard for what we judge to be right or wrong behavior. Sadly, your own comment is one that condemns you as much as anyone else in this matter. Let Church teachings, which are objective decide. Simple.

    • The Pope can make and unmake ecclesiastical law. He cannot make divine law. (See Galatians 1: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.”)

      But even so, canon law forbids the distribution of Holy Communion to non-Catholics. That is the law the Pope made, and which he has not changed, in over 10 years of having the authority to do so.

      The archbishop is not pope. He cannot alter or make an exception from this law: he is bound by it.

      Giving Holy Communion to an unbaptized person is not a mite, it is sacrilege. If you think that there should be no reaction against it or punishment for it in the ecclesiastical sphere, feel free to advocate for legalizing murder in the civil sphere – that is approximately the same level of gravity.

    • From brother James we read: “…where in scripture are we given the right to judge?”

      Indeed, where is scripture does it say that we do not have a moral conscience and the universal natural law, and therefore the obligation to make moral judgments?

      Instead, this from St. Paul: “When the Gentiles who have no law do by nature what the Law prescribes, these having no law are a law unto themselves. They show the work of the Law written in their hearts” (Romans 2:14-15).

      The conscience? It is by the moral conscience that we are obliged to make moral judgments about actions–quite different from presuming to judge the souls of others. The fallacy of replacing such objective judgments of conscience with merely subjective decisions is addressed in Veritatis Splendor:

      “A separation, or even an opposition, is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid and general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final DECISION [no longer a ‘MORAL JUDGMENT’] about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept [thou shalt not…]” (Veritatis Splendor, n. 56).

  11. There is even more reason to be outraged by this outrage. Not believing in the real presence is sufficient to deny anyone Holy Communion. However, Muslims also believe that Christ was merely a prophet lesser than Muhammad, and that He did not die on the Cross. In fact, Muslim belief maintains that Allah allowed Christians to be duped into believing this.

    In the Qur’an, Sura 4:157, the following is set forth in grammatically challenged phrases that are a prominent feature throughout the Qur’an:

    “And because of their saying, We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the messenger of Allah, they did not kill him or crucify him, but it seemed so to them, and indeed, those who disagree about this are in doubt about, they have no knowledge of it except pursuit of a supposition, they did not kill him for certain.”
    Keeping the foregoing in mind, it can only be concluded that the primary purpose and reality of the Mass is one big show of blasphemy and ignorance to Muslims, so even more so than other Christians outside the Church, no bishop or priest should even consider allowing a Muslim to partake in Holy Communion which the Muslim deems to be a blasphemous and ignorant thing and action.

  12. The article incorrectly cites cannon 844 as setting the rule for the universal church. It is the code applicable to the Latin Rite only. The Eastern Cade has a similar provision, so claiming universal application of the Latin code is incorrect. Further. In the Latin Code, Section 844 also provides as follows:
    “§3. Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.“

  13. Have these Church “leaders” lost their minds? The more I read about the strange utterances and actions by priests from the top down I wonder if the Catholic Church hierarchy has become or is becoming apostate.

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