An extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is, under the Code of Canon Law, "an acolyte, or another of Christ's faithful deputed", in certain circumstances, to distribute Holy Communion. The term "extraordinary" distinguishes such a person from the ordinary (normal, regular) minister of Holy Communion, namely a bishop, priest or deacon.
In order to avoid confusion about this function, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is not to be called a "special minister of Holy Communion", nor an "extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist", nor a "special minister of the Eucharist".
Ten years before publication of the present Code of Canon Law, some of these expressions were used in the instruction of the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments Immensae caritatis of 29 January 1973. They are now reprobated. The only minister of the Eucharist is the priest.
An instituted acolyte (usually a seminarian) is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion by virtue of his institution. The local bishop may delegate other lay Catholics for this function either for a single occasion or for a specified period of time, if there are reasons of real necessity. The commissioning need not take a liturgical form, but an appropriate blessing, which should in no way resemble ordination, may be imparted. In special cases of an unforeseen nature, the priest celebrating Mass may grant permission for a single occasion