VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling before the pope will become the norm at papal liturgies, said the Vatican's liturgist.
While current norms allow the faithful to receive the Eucharist in the hand while standing, Pope Benedict XVI has indicated a preference for the more traditional practice, said Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies.
Kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue highlights "the truth of the real presence [of Christ] in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful and introduces the sense of mystery more easily," he said in a June 26 interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
Pastorally speaking, he said "it is urgent to highlight and recover" these aspects of the sacredness and mystery of the Eucharist in modern times.
Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand and the majority choose to receive on the tongue.
But starting with a May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar and the chosen communicants all knelt and received on the tongue.
At a June 15 Mass in the southern Italian port city of Brindisi, the pope again distributed Communion to the faithful on the tongue while they were kneeling.
In the Vatican newspaper interview, Marini was asked if this practice was destined to become the norm in all papal celebrations, and he replied, "I really think so."
He said "it is necessary not to forget that the distribution of Communion in the hand, from a juridical standpoint, remains up to now an indult," which is an exemption from a general requirement that is granted by the Vatican to the bishops' conferences which have requested it. He said the pope's adoption of the traditional practice of distributing Communion "aims to highlight the force of the valid norm for the whole church."
However, the pope's preference for the traditional practice is not meant to "take anything away from the other" permissible form of standing or receiving the Eucharist in the hand, he said.
Marini told the Vatican newspaper that Pope Benedict also would be introducing another change to future papal liturgies during his June 29 Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome.
He said the pope would begin wearing a shorter pallium -- a circular woolen band worn over the shoulders with a shorter strip hanging down the front and back -- similar to the kind worn by Pope John Paul II.
Pope Benedict had been wearing a pallium similar to ones worn by popes in the first millennium, when the woolen band was wrapped around the pope's shoulders and hung down his left side to just below his knees.
Marini said the new pallium was chosen for two reasons: "to more heavily underline the continued development this liturgical vestment has had over the span of more than 12 centuries" and to be more practical.
The longer pallium the pope had been using created "different and troublesome problems," he said.
The newer, shorter pallium is decorated with six red crosses instead of black ones. Like other palliums, the end piece is made of black silk, a symbol of the black sheep which the shepherd rescues and carries over his shoulder back to the flock.
The white woolen pallium is a sign of the pope's and an archbishop's authority over the Christian community and the Gospel authority of a shepherd called to carry his sheep, to lead them and to feed them.