PM did not pocket communion wafer: spokesman
Published Wednesday, July 8, 2009 6:58PM EDT
Canada may have its own fuzzy Zapruder film.
Controversy has broken out over a film clip that shows Prime Minister Stephen Harper taking a communion wafer, but does not show him consuming it.
However, a spokesperson for Harper said the prime minister "immediately" swallowed the wafer, which the Roman Catholic church considers sacred.
"At the end of the service, he was offered communion. He accepted communion and he consumed it," Dimitri Soudas said
But video of the incident, available on YouTube, shows the prime minister accepting the wafer from the priest and not consuming it for the duration of the time Harper is in frame, which lasts about five seconds.
The incident occurred at the Roman Catholic funeral of former governor general Romeo Leblanc in Memramcook, N.B.
A Roman Catholic priest says it's unclear if Harper pocketed the wafer -- as some critics allege -- and said if that allegation was true it would be scandalous.
"It's worse than a faux pas, it's a scandal from the Catholic point of view," Msgr. Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John in New Brunswick, told the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal.
Harper is a Protestant and would not normally consume Roman Catholic communion.
"If the prime minister is not a Catholic, he should not have been receiving communion and if he comes up it places the priest in an awkward position, especially at a national funeral because everyone is watching," Henneberry said.
Soudas defended Harper taking the wafer, which Catholics consider to be the body of Christ and Protestants consider to be a symbol, saying: "Who is he to judge a priest offering him communion?"
Harper is in Italy for a G8 summit and has an audience with Pope Benedict on Saturday.
With files from The Canadian Press