Days before Stephen Harper is to have a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI, the Prime Minister is accused of committing a Roman Catholic faux pas.
While attending a state funeral for former governor general Roméo LeBlanc last week, Harper received a sacramental communion wafer, in contravention of church practices for non-Catholics, and then appeared not to consume it.
Catholics believe that the wafer, or host, once it is consecrated during the mass by a priest, becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ and must be consumed when received. Sensitive to the optics, a spokesman for Harper vehemently denied earlier reports he pocketed the wafer.
"The Prime Minister was offered communion, he accepted it and without a doubt consumed the wafer," Dimitri Soudas said yesterday in an interview in L'Aquila, Italy, where Harper is attending the G8 summit.
Harper is to have his private audience with the Pontiff on Saturday.
Soudas said earlier at the summit that Harper consumed the consecrated host immediately, within seconds of taking it from the priest, despite a video that suggests he did not. "Unfortunately, CBC cameras don't stay on the Prime Minister long enough sometimes," Soudas told reporters.