Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday?

Getty Pope Francis blesses worshipers and palm branches at the start of the Palm Sunday mass on April 14, 2019 at St. Peter's square in the Vatican.

Can Catholics eat meat on Good Friday? No, the Catholic church tells parishioners over the age of 14 that they must abstain from eating meat on this final Friday in Lent. Fish and non-meat items that come from animals, such as eggs and milk, are permitted. Adults are also instructed to fast.

The solemn holiday, which commemorates the day that Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross, takes place during the holiest time on the Christian calendar. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and concludes with the Easter Sunday celebration.

This year, Good Friday falls on April 10, 2020.

Here’s what you need to know.

Catholics Believe Jesus Christ Died to Atone For Humanity’s Sins; Abstaining From Meat is Viewed as a Way to Honor His Flesh Sacrifice

Good Friday is the date on the Christian calendar when the faithful commemorate the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for humanity. Catholics believe that Jesus gave his life in atonement for all of our sins.

Pope Francis summarized this message in a social media message, writing, “Christ, out of love, sacrificed himself completely in order to save you. His outstretched arms on the cross are the most telling sign that he is a friend who is willing to stop at nothing.” He added, “Christ died because He loves each one of us: young and old, saints and sinners, people of His time and people of our time.”

Abstaining from meat is viewed as a way to honor Jesus,’ who gave his own flesh in the ultimate sacrifice for others. Author Michael P. Foley, who has a Ph.D. in systematic theology, explained in his book “Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?” that abstaining from meat is symbolically a rejection of all carnal behavior. “There is a certain theological appropriateness to abstaining from the meat of an animal whose blood has been shed on the day in which the blood of the Godman was shed, the absence of the former reminding us paradoxically of the latter.”

Good Friday Is Not an Excuse to Gorge on Seafood, Says Pope Francis

Catholics are allowed to eat fish and other seafood on Good Friday and on all other Fridays during the Lenten season. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains simply on its website, “Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.”

But Pope Francis has warned that this rule does not give Catholics a pass to gorge themselves on seafood. He said during a mass in February of 2015 that those who practice this behavior would be guilty of the sin of gluttony, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The Pope explained during this homily that Lent is supposed to be about more than just abstaining from certain foods. He called on Catholics to focus more on performing good deeds. Pope Francis used an example of an employer being fair to his workers; a person who attends mass each week but then chooses to pay his employees an unfair wage would be seen as hypocritical. He also called on communities to be kind to those in jail and to help “children and the elderly who don’t have the possibility of being seen by a doctor.”

The Church Asks Adults to Fast on Good Friday

Adults between the ages of 18 and 59 are told to fast on Good Friday. But fasting in the Catholic tradition is not as restrictive as it sounds; the faithful are not asked to abstain from food all day.

Instead, fasting requires adults to limit their food intake to one full meal and two smaller ones during the day. They are also told not to eat snacks between those meals.

If possible, some Catholics may choose to continue the fast until Easter Sunday, but it is not a strict requirement.

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