Are We in Communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church?



Dear Catholic Exchange,

I just finished reading Father Tran's article, The Real Presence – It's No Accident. It was outstanding and I'm going to refer others to it because it explains the difference between the “substantial” and “accidental” aspects of the Eucharist so well.

I am writing because I was confused by his statement that Eastern Orthodox Christians can receive the Eucharist with us. This is not accurate; although the Eastern Orthodox Churches have a valid Eucharist and all of the other Sacraments, we are not in Communion with them, unfortunately. There are Eastern CATHOLIC Churches in existence that are mostly composed of formerly Orthodox Christians that adhere to Eastern Christian Liturgy and Traditions, but the good Father did not specify that.

I just wanted to point this out so that nobody became confused as to our status with the Orthodox. A Catholic cannot walk into an Orthodox Church and demand to receive Communion, or vice versa. In exceptional circumstances, one can request permission to do so from both his Catholic Bishop and the Orthodox Bishop of the Church we wish to commune at, but the only real reason such a request would be accepted would be if the person were traveling in some part of Asia where a Catholic Church was not available. The Catholic Church teaches that if that were the case, it would also be acceptable to attend Divine Liturgy at an Eastern Church without receiving in order to satisfy the Sunday Obligation.

I just thought I should clarify so that nobody is confused by just one article. Thank you for your great service. I enjoy your articles and features every day.

Gregg Tripp

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A.M.D.G.

Dear Mr Tripp:

Thank you for your reply to my article on the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. I am writing to respond to your comments with regard

to the Church's teaching on communicatio in sacris.

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law states the following:

c. 844.2 “Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or of indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.”

c. 844.3 “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.”

Canon 844.2 does not require that a Catholic get permission from his bishop to receive Communion in the churches mentioned nor does canon 844.3 require the Catholic minister to receive permission from his bishop to give Communion to a member of an Eastern Church. These rights are given by the law itself.

Having said that, it is important for Catholics to keep in mind that the Eastern Orthodox Churches are not as open about their sacraments as we are

in this regard. They have the same restrictions about Catholics receiving their sacraments as Catholics have about Protestants receiving our sacraments — possibly even stricter. That is something we must be sensitive to.

In pace Christi,

Father Augustine Tran




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