The Roman Catholic Church has issued a letter to confirm its prohibition on the use of gluten-free bread for the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
In the letter published on the Vatican's website on Saturday, Cardinal Robert Sarah insisted that gluten-free bread was an "invalid" choice for the sacrament.
Sarah pointed to previously implemented instructions on the quality of bread and wine used for the sacrament.
"Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist," the letter stated, as reported by The Christian Post.
"Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread," it continued.
The Church affirms the doctrine of transubstantiation, which holds that the bread and wine turn into the actual body and blood of Jesus during the Communion service.
According to Religion News Service, the Catholic Church wants the sacrament to be as close as possible to the elements of the first-ever Communion — the bread and wine that Christians believe Jesus ate and drank during the Last Supper.
In contrast, Protestant churches, which consider Communion to be a symbolic act, are continuing to place orders for gluten-free bread for the Eucharist.
"We have more of a pastoral possibility for understanding how things might carefully and respectfully be changed to meet the pastoral needs of the congregation," said the Rev. Susan Blain, who serves on the faith and formation staff at the United Church of Christ's Cleveland headquarters.
She pointed out that the Protestant churches have mostly led the way for congregations to start replacing wine with grape juice in Communion service due to concerns that alcohol was dangerous to the health of people.
Some Protestant denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, have increasingly offered gluten-free Communion to accommodate people with celiac disease, which affects about one in 100 people worldwide.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, those suffering from the condition must stay away from gluten to avoid painful symptoms and serious health consequences.
Many Protestant congregations are informing parishioners and visitors that they are allowed to make their preference for gluten-free bread known to their church. As one Episcopal Church in Iowa advised on its website: "You may receive both the bread and the wine or just one of them. Gluten-free bread is also consecrated. When the priest comes to you with bread, say 'gluten-free,'"