Pre-pack cups alter image of eucharist

Click to follow
Take, eat, for this is my body ... hygienically wrapped in individual portion-sized, trademarked plastic cups. An American company could make a fortune distributing pre-packaged communion sets, containing wine and individual wafers sealed in transparent containers rather like those with individual portions of butter or jam in hotels

English Christians reacted with incredulity yesterday to the news that the Compak Corporation, of Chicago, is already selling 25 million sets a month of their "celebration cups". "I think it's disgusting, but I can't say why," said the Archdeacon of York, the Venerable George Austin, one of the Church of England's leading traditionalists.

Jim Johnson, the president of Compak, said: "I think this is more reverent than ordinary means, since the Bible endorses cleanliness."

Referring to the occasion on which Jesus fed a crowd by the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes, Mr Johnson added: "Just look at the feeding of the 5,000: that had to be fast food, so we're in good company."

However, the eucharist commemorates a different meal, the Last Supper, when Jesus "took the bread and broke it" - impossible when both bread and wine come pre-packaged in individual portions.

Monsignor Kieron Conry, a spokesman for the Catholic Media Office, said: "The eucharist is an action, not a thing; and it is a community celebration, not a personal one. This packaging makes that impossible."

Mr Johnson, however, remains sanguine. "There's been an incredible response so far, but there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world, so we have only just scratched the surface," he told the Church Times.