Kuopio, Finland, August 30, 2022
After more than two years of investigating the issue, the hierarchs of the Finnish Church have come to a decision about how to commune people who suffer from celiac disease.
At its session on August 24, the Bishops’ Council of the Finnish Orthodox Church, an autonomous Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, resolved:
When there’s a need for gluten-free Holy Gifts, a priest may consecrate a Lamb made from gluten-free flour during the Divine Liturgy and treat it as the Holy Gifts from the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, using a separate chalice.
The Finnish hierarchs first raised the issue at their session in February 2020.
“Those who suffer from celiac disease cannot commune of the Body of Christ at the Eucharist due to their intolerance to wheat protein. Those who suffer from an acute form cannot commune of the Blood of Christ either, because it could also contain particles of wheat flour,” the hierarchs said, charging one priest with studying the practice of the Greek Orthodox Church.
That priest, Fr. John Lampropoulos, reported to the Finnish hierarchs in October 2021 that the Greek Church has no developed position on the matter, and that the issue requires an appeal to the Canonical Department of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Finnish Church’s investigation into the matter has not sat well with everyone in the Church. In October 2021, the Office of Heresies and Cults of the Metropolis of Piraeus of the Orthodox Church of Greece stated that, “it’s a clear challenge to the sanctifying and redemptive power of the Eucharist. It is also a direct insult against the Holy Spirit, a desecration of the Holy Mysteries, and disrespect to the Church and its 2,000-year Tradition.”
The Finnish Council of Bishops also made several other decisions last week. As of August 25, the Church resumed the practice of communing people with the spoon, which had been interrupted due to the COVID pandemic.
The hierarchs also decided to bring newly baptized babies into the altar, regardless of gender, and compiled a list of holy days when Divine services should be celebrated in all parishes of the Finnish Church.