Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion


The ordinary minister of Holy Communion is a bishop, priest, or deacon. Other members of the faithful, known as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, may be commissioned to assist – as needed – with the distribution of the Sacrament.


All ministers of Holy Communion should show the greatest reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist by their demeanor, their attire, and the manner in which they handle the consecrated bread or wine. Should there be any mishap--as when, for example, the consecrated wine is spilled from the chalice--then the affected "area . . . should be washed and the water poured into the sacrarium.

If extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are required by pastoral need, they should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion. After the priest has concluded his own Communion, he distributes Communion to the extraordinary ministers, assisted by the deacon, and then hands the sacred vessels to them for distribution of Holy Communion to the people.


This Rituale is a Translation of the Rituale Romanum of 1952, revised to accord with all pertinent decrees up to and including the Instruction of 26 September 1964.  It is a translation of the Complete Rituale Romanum and contains the English text exclusively.  It also includes the rite of ordination of a priest, a ceremony for solemn engagement, the Oath against Modernism, the Itinerarium, the home enthronement of the Sacred Heart, and prayers at meals.  An introduction is given to the various parts, and brief commentaries within the actual rites, both of which are aids to priests in explaining the sacred rites as they are being administered, as well as material for instructions and sermons

Redemptionis Sacramentum

On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist

Chapter II


Chapter VII


[37.] ... the participation of the lay faithful too in the Eucharist and in the other celebrations of the Church’s rites cannot be equated with mere presence, and still less with a passive one, but is rather to be regarded as a true exercise of faith and of the baptismal dignity.

[38.] The constant teaching of the Church on the nature of the Eucharist not only as a meal, but also and pre-eminently as a Sacrifice, is therefore rightly understood to be one of the principal keys to the full participation of all the faithful in so great a Sacrament.

[43.] For the good of the community and of the whole Church of God, some of the lay faithful according to tradition have rightly and laudably exercised ministries in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

[46.] The lay Christian faithful called to give assistance at liturgical celebrations should be well instructed and must be those whose Christian life, morals and fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium recommend them. It is fitting that such a one should have received a liturgical formation in accordance with his or her age, condition, state of life, and religious culture.


280. If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently. If any of the Precious Blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy.


284. When Communion is distributed under both kinds, a. The chalice is usually administered by a deacon or, when no deacon is present, by a priest, or even by a duly instituted acolyte or another extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, or by a member of the faithful who in case of necessity has been entrusted with this duty for a single occasion; b. Whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ is consumed at the altar by the priest or the deacon or the duly instituted acolyte who ministered the chalice. The same then purifies, wipes, and arranges the sacred vessels in the usual way. Any of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion under the species of bread alone should be granted their wish.


286. If Communion of the Blood of Christ is carried out by communicants’ drinking from the chalice, each communicant, after receiving the Body of Christ, moves and stands facing the minister of the chalice. The minister says, Sanguis Christi (The Blood of Christ), the communicant responds, Amen, and the minister hands over the chalice, which the communicant raises to his or her mouth. Each communicant drinks a little from the chalice, hands it back to the minister, and then withdraws; the minister wipes the rim of the chalice with the purificator.

[146.] There can be no substitute whatsoever for the ministerial Priesthood. For if a Priest is lacking in the community, then the community lacks the exercise and sacramental function of Christ the Head and Shepherd, which belongs to the essence of its very life.

[151.] Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy.

[156.] This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

[157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.[258]

[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.

[159.] It is never allowed for the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to delegate anyone else to administer the Eucharist, as for example a parent or spouse or child of the sick person who is the communicant.

160. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

161. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the Priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, The Body of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed, in the hand, the choice lying with the communicant. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes the whole of it.

162. In the distribution of Communion the Priest may be assisted by other Priests who happen to be present. If such Priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the Priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, that is, duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been duly deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the Priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.

These ministers should not approach the altar before the Priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the Priest Celebrant the vessel containing the species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

163. When the distribution of Communion is over, the Priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.

Procedures for Distribution

• If there is no deacon, an EMHC may assist the presider in distributing Holy Communion to the other EMHCs; EMHCs are not to self-communicate either the Sacred Body or the Precious Blood

• After EMHCs receive Holy Communion, they are given their appropriate Communion vessel by the priest or deacon. Once all EMHCs have their vessels, they proceed reverently to their Communion stations

• In giving Holy Communion, the minister holds the host slightly above the vessel, looks at the communicant, and in a clear voice says, “The Body of Christ” to which the communicant responds “Amen”. These are the only words to be used. Nothing is to be added or subtracted, not even a name. Then the Sacred Body is placed in the hand or on the tongue according to the manner indicated by the communicant

• If a communicant begins to walk away carrying the host, the EMHC should say in a subdued voice, “Please consume the host now”

• In giving the Precious Blood, the EMHC holds the Sacred Cup up slightly and says in a clear voice while looking at the communicant, “The Blood of Christ” to which the communicant responds “Amen”. These are the only words to be used. Nothing is to be added or subtracted, not even a name. Generally, the communicant should hold the Sacred Cup firmly in both hands and drink from it. However, in the case of a physical disability or weakness, the EMHC should be ready to assist in holding the Sacred Cup

• After the Blood of Christ has been received, the EMHC should wipe the rim of the Sacred Cup, inside and out, with a purificator and turn the Sacred Cup slightly (1/4 turn) before presenting it to the next communicant. The EMHC should be careful not to wipe in a manner where the purificator is dipped into the Precious Blood.

The practice of self-intinction is not permitted

• Those EMHCs finishing distribution before others, can move to assist those ministers who still have communicants to serve; follow specific parish procedure in this regard

• It is recommended that there be two ministers of the Sacred Cup for every one minister of the Body of Christ. This allows for a smooth flow of the Communion procession

• It is recommended that ministers of the Sacred Cup are positioned a sufficient distance from the minister of the Body of Christ to ensure a smooth flow of the Communion procession

Additional Resources