Tradworld, of which I usually like to count myself as a part, is having a fit about this picture of Queen Sofia of Spain receiving Holy Communion from the Pope. As we are all well aware, the norm for those receiving at his public masses has been kneeling at a prie-dieu and on the tongue. Good heavens! Let’s be clear on a couple of things. In the first place, the Pope has not made any law making it obligatory to kneel for Holy Communion. Second, he hasn’t made any law about receiving in the hand or on the tongue. He could do these things, but he isn’t going to. We should be clear that this is not a primary issue for Benedict – it never has been. The reason for that, I would speculate, is it would be extremely difficult to enforce and cause a whole lot of more upset to the laity.
Now, he has intimated that people coming to him for Holy Communion would preferably kneel and receive on the tongue, assuming this is possible (it isn’t always, for example the disabled girl who received at the Glasgow Mass). But here we have a picture of His Holiness taking Holy Communion to Her Majesty (and the King, who did not receive) at a raised platform. As far as I can see, even if the Queen were kneeling, the Holy Father would have had quite a stretch to get the Host to Her Majesty’s mouth. The Queen has obviously moved round from her place at the prie-dieu; Her Majesty didn’t go from sitting to standing either, but was already on her feet during the Holy Father’s own Communion. I propose the Queen moved round like this as a fairly natural movement for someone used to receiving standing. Or to make it easier for the Pope. Or because she can’t kneel very well. Or because Her Majesty didn’t know it would be preferable to kneel forward from her seat.
It is therefore very difficult to ascertain precisely what is happening here. Catholic monarchs enjoy the privilege of having Holy Communion brought to them (even by the Pope) and that is just what is happening here. Maybe we should all draw our horns in and (to mix metaphors) undraw our daggers and think the best of the situation instead of the worst. Queen Sofia is generally pious and known as something of a “conservative” who has annoyed Prime Minister Zapatero with her opposition to his “modernisations”. Anyone who can do that cannot be all bad, eh?