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 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 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, (“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.”