Can You Eat Meat on Good Friday?

On Friday, Catholics worldwide will celebrate Good Friday, which precedes Easter Sunday. The holy day also marks the final Friday of Lent, the 40-day Catholic observance in which Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays.

The Catholic Church dictates that all Catholics 14 and older must abstain from meat and meat products every Friday of Lent, including Good Friday, and Ash Wednesday, according to Learn Religions. Prior to 1966, Catholics were expected to abstain from meat every Friday, regardless of whether it was Lent. Additionally, Catholics between 18 and 59 years old are expected to fast on Good Friday, which means they are only meant to eat one full meal. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) does say that some food at other mealtimes may be permitted if necessary.

"Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal. Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal. Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals," the USCCB states on its website. The group also acknowledges fasting exceptions to pregnant or nursing women and people who are ill, and says that common sense should be applied to who should fast.

Because Good Friday is the day that Christians observe their savior, Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, abstaining from eating meat is a recognition of his sacrifice. "Since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday, we refrain from eating flesh meat in his honor on Fridays," Father Michael Van Sloun wrote on the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minnesota's website. Flesh meat includes the meat of mammals and poultry, and the main foods that come under this heading are beef and pork, chicken and turkey. While flesh is prohibited, the non-flesh products of these animals are not prohibited—meaning things like milk, cheese, butter, and eggs." And despite the restrictions on meat, fish is still permitted.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some bishops have excused their dioceses from the Friday abstinence, but Catholics are still expected to observe Good Friday by abstaining from eating meat, such as the Most Reverend James F. Checchio of Metuchen.

From the Bishop's Desk:

"I have granted a dispensation from abstaining from meat on Fridays for the rest of Lent, except Good Friday which is universal law. " - Most Rev. James F. Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen

— Diocese of Metuchen (@diocesemetuchen) March 26, 2020

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's Bishop David Zubick and Diocese of Houma Thibodaux's Bishop Shelton J. Fabre also dispensed the need to abstain from meat, but wrote that since Good Friday is a holy day, the abstinence and fasting could not be dispensed.

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Actor James Burke-Dunsmore shares wine with his disciples during the last supper whilst playing Jesus during The Wintershall's 'The Passion of Jesus' in front of crowds on Good Friday at Trafalgar Square on March 25, 2016 in London, England. Chris Ratcliffe/Getty