This Week’s Ask Alice: Does a person need to be ordained in order to access the tabernacle?

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Nancy writes: Our priest recently told us that only ordained hands were allowed in the tabernacle. The person must be an acolyte, deacon, or priest. No extraordinary ministers allowed. Is this true? Thank you.

Alice Answers: The tabernacle is a secure reservoir for the Blessed Sacrament. It is not used as a part of the Mass. There are no iron clad rules regarding whose hands are allowed inside the tabernacle.

Touching the interior of the tabernacle is a matter based on protocol and common sense. During Mass, the celebrant, con-celebrating priest and deacon (ordained men) are at the altar, so protocol and logistics suggest that ordained hands would open and close the tabernacle during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. However, extenuating circumstances, such as a disabled celebrant without a deacon assistant, might necessitate (with the priest’s approval) the use of the hands of an extraordinary minister or layperson.

Properly authorized extraordinary ministers often remove the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle during Eucharistic Adoration or when preparing to bring the Holy Eucharist to hospitalized or home-bound persons.

Directives regarding access to the tabernacle may vary from one diocese to another, according to the jurisdiction of the local ordinary (bishop). For example: A bishop or priest might prudently decide to restrict the laity from access to the tabernacle in a church that’s located in a high crime area, or in a community with a large population of non-Christians.

In Christ’s Love,