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Reverend Father,

I would like to ask a delicate question of sacramental theology.

I have read that some hypothesize, in view of the Synod for the Amazon, the possibility of using bread other than wheat as the substance for the Eucharist.

From the various texts that I have consulted it seemed to be deducible that the need for the consecration of bread is to be considered “de fide”; while the need for this bread to be made of wheat, even if sanctioned by magisterial documents and by Thomas, would not seem to cover the theological note “de fide” (or at least there is no explicit declaration to that effect). Even according to Caietano it would be a question of lawfulness and not of validity.

Is it correct, therefore, to think that the Church could change the discipline on the matter? Or is it a “fidei proxima” doctrine or in any case unchangeable?

Cordial greetings,


The priest’s answer

Dear Francesco,

1. First of all it should be remembered what the Council of Trento sanctioned:

“The Council also declares that the Church has always had the power to establish and modify in the administration of the sacraments, without prejudice to their substance, those elements that it considered most useful for those who receive them or for the veneration of the sacraments themselves, depending on the diversity of circumstances, times and places.

And this the apostle seems to clearly indicate when he says: “Let everyone consider us as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4: 1) “(DS 1728).

2. The Church can therefore change the material (the elements with which the sacrament is celebrated) and the form (the words that are uttered in the use of this material).

However, this mutation must not alter the substance of the sacrament.

3. The Church has done this several times for some sacraments.

For example, for Confirmation, the form consisted of the following words: “I sign you with the sign of the Cross and confirm you with the chrism of health in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”.

With the post-conciliar reform it is the following: “Receive the seal of the Holy Spirit which is given to you as a gift. Amen”.

Pius XII had changed the material of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which previously consisted of the delivery of the instruments to celebrate.

Now, however, we have returned to the ancient use of the laying on of hands. 

4. One may wonder if this can also be done for the Eucharist.

The answer is no, because this material was used by Christ Himself in the Last Supper since He used bread and wine.

The same discourse also applies to Baptism, which refers to water and which was used by Christ Himself when He baptized as we are told in the Gospel of John: “They went to John and said to him:” Rabbi, He who was with you on the other side of the Jordan and to whom you have given witness, behold, He is baptizing and everyone is going to him “” (Jn 3:26).

5. Having established that Jesus used bread and wine, one wonders if the bread should be of wheat (triticeo) and if the wine should be of vine.

The Church has never established this as a dogma of faith.

However, it falls within its teaching and condemns those who say the opposite (but not as a heresy with an attached excommunication).

For example, the Council of Florence speaks of it in the decree for the Armenians.

It reads: “The third sacrament is the Eucharist, the matter of which is wheat bread and grape wine” (DS 1320).

The Roman Catechism also speaks of it, which is the Catechism of the Council of Trento.

The Code of Canon Law thus sanctions the discipline of the Church:

“Can. 924 – § 1. The sacrosanct Eucharistic Sacrifice must be celebrated with bread and wine, to which a little water must be added.

§ 2. The bread must be made of wheat only and newly packaged, so that there is no danger of alteration.

§ 3. The wine must be natural, of the fruit of the vine and not altered ”.

6. For a long time we have been wondering whether the Church can allow celebrations to be celebrated with non-wheat bread.

In fact, the Church has always said no, because the memorial, which makes present an event accomplished in the past, must also represent in its symbolism what happened in the accomplished event.

And if someone asks: why wheat bread?

We respond by referring to the event the memorial of which is being celebrated: “Because Christ used this bread”.

Especially since wheat bread is not a material that is difficult to find anywhere in the world. 

7. You ask me what the value of this practice is.

I could say that it falls within the Consuetudo Ecclesiae (in the custom of the Church).

St. Thomas affirms that “the custom of the Church, which must always and in everything be followed, has the highest authority” (Summa theologica II-II, 10,12).

For his part, Y. Congar (Dominican theologian made cardinal by John Paul II) recalls that “theologians have always considered the Praxis Ecclesiae as normative when it is constant and implies a stance regarding the faith” (y. Congar, Faith and theology, p. 161).

8. Although therefore it is not “de fide” that the bread must be of wheat, nevertheless since the custom of the Church has the highest authority “I am convinced that the Church on this point will not change its discipline, because Jesus, after using wheat bread and wine of vine said: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19 and 1 Cor 11:25).

In doing this you also read the choice of matter which should be the same as the one which He has chosen.

In the hope of having adequately exposed the doctrine of the Church to you, I wish you well, I entrust you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo