Story: Death and dying

Holy communion on the battlefield, 1917

Holy communion on the battlefield, 1917

A Catholic priest offers holy communion to soldiers near the firing line on the Messines ridge in Belgium, 1917. For these soldiers it was important to participate in communion before going into battle. The communion ritual or eucharist entails eating bread (or a wafer) and drinking wine that symbolise the body and blood of Jesus Christ. For Christians this sacrament is one of the key rituals that connects human beings and God, and therefore is appropriate when someone is dying or anticipating death, as these soldiers did on the battle field during the First World War.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association Collection
Reference: 1/2-012781-G
Photograph by Henry Armytage Sanders

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Ruth McManus and Rosemary Du Plessis, 'Death and dying - Dying and bereavement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 June 2024)

Story by Ruth McManus and Rosemary Du Plessis, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 16 May 2018, updated 1 Nov 2023