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Bishops Vote to Ask Vatican to Permit Communion in Hand, Washington, DC, June 2, 1977 (UPI)

Roman Catholic bishops in the United States have voted to petition the Vatican to permit the practice of receiving communion in the hand in this country.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops said today that 190 bishops had voted in favor of seeking the permission from Rome.

A vote taken at the bishop's meeting in May did not make the two-thirds affirmation vote necessary to petition Rome, but it was close enough that members of the hierarchy not present at the Chicago meeting were polled by mail. Approval was widely forecast at that time.

Under terms of the petition, dioceses would be allowed to reinstitute, as a liturgical option, the ancient practice of allowing lay communicants to receive the bread of holy communion in the hand rather than on the tongue.

The issue generated emotional debate at the bishops' spring meeting.

Although the practice of receiving communion in the hand was part of church tradition for its first eight centuries, the Council of Rouen of 878 condemned the practice and communion on the tongue was instituted.

Opponents of the practice, including John Cardinal Carberry, Archbishop of St. Louis, and John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia, believe it fosters disrespect for the eucharist.

At the May meeting, bishops argued that despite the lack of Vatican approval for use of the option in the United States, the practice was already widespread.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI permitted restoration of the practice on condition of approval by a conference of bishops of the country seeking permission.

Bishops conferences in some 50 countries, including Canada and Mexico, have petitioned and received such permission.

After permission is received by the conference, the decision on whether or not to implement the option is left to the individual diocesan bishop.

Two earlier attempts to have the United States bishops' conference petition for permission were defeated because they did not receive the necessary two-thirds affirmative vote.