Children must not be deprived of the Eucharist, a source of grace and assistance to them as they begin their walk with Jesus, stressed the Vatican prefect of the congregation for sacraments.
In an article in L'Osservatore Romano to mark the 100-year anniversary of a papal decree which lowered the age of first communicants, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares underscored that children should still be allowed to receive the Eucharist as soon as they are able.
The Vatican newspaper published an article by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, titled "Jesus and the Children" on Sunday. In it, the cardinal remembered Pope St. Pius X's "Quam singulari" decree from Aug. 8, 1910 which gave children the ability to receive the Eucharist once they had reached the "age of reason," deemed then at around seven years of age.
"With this decree ... he taught the entire Church the meaning, the opportunity, the value and the centrality of Holy Communion for the life of all of the baptized, including children," wrote the cardinal prefect of St. Pius X.
"At the same time, he underscored and reminded everyone of the love and the predeliction of Jesus for children ... ," added the cardinal, noting in from Bible passages that the youngest "are always very special friends of the Lord."
Emphasizing that there is "no greater love, no greater gift" than that of communion, he said that being with the Lord is "worth more than every other thing in the life of each man" and first communion, as the beginning of our "walk together with Jesus" should not be put off.
"We cannot, (by) delaying first communion deprive children ... of this grace, work and presence of Jesus, of this encounter of friendship with him, of this singular participation of Jesus himself to be able to mature and thus reach fullness."
In today's world, he said, children are in great need of this sacrament and, "thanks to their immaculate and open souls," no one is more disposed than them to the union, friendship, strength and presence it offers.
Citing the 100th anniversary of Pope Pius X's decree as a "providential occasion to remember and insist" on the fact that children can receive communion from the time they are able to reason, Cardinal Cañizares said that rather than continuing a trend which sees children receive communion ever later, if nothing else, today they should be able to receive it earlier than ever.
"In the face of what is happening with children and to the very adverse environment in which they grow up, let's not deprive them of the gift of God," he concluded, " ... it is the guarantee of their growth as children of God, generated by the sacraments of Christian initiation in the bosom of the holy Mother Church. The grace of of the gift of God is the most powerful of our works, and of our plans and programs."
And, today, he said, as Pope Pius X urged a century ago, "we must accompany this same 'anticipation' of age with a new and vigorous pastoral plan of Christian initiation."