A communion wafer that fell to the floor at a South St. Paul church and turned blood red is not a miracle. Twin Cities archdiocese officials said Wednesday that the discoloration was instead caused by a fungus.

The wafer was dropped during mass after it had been consecrated on June 19 at St. Augustine Church. Catholics believe that after consecration the wafer becomes the actual body of Christ. In order to show the proper reverence, the host was placed in a chalice-like container with water so it would dissolve.

However, a week later, the host had not dissolved but had shrunk and turned a blood-red color, leading some to question whether the church was dealing with something miraculous or something biological like a fungus or bacteria.

The church's pastor turned it over to the archdiocese for examination.

The archdiocese sent the host to an unnamed laboratory to be tested and released the results Wednesday in a statement from archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath.

"Exhaustive biological analysis by an independent scientific laboratory has determined that the reddish coloration on the Holy Communion host fragment that was kept in a water solution after it was discovered on the floor of St. Augustine Church ... was caused by a fungus. The host in question has been disposed of in a manner prescribed by church law.

"While the Catholic Church fully recognizes the possibility of miracles and remains open to their possibility, it does so with extreme scrutiny, investigation and care. This incident was the result of natural biological causes and should not be considered in any other way."

Instances of so-called Eucharistic miracles, such as "bleeding hosts" that emit blood, have been reported by Catholics for centuries. Archdiocese officials said that one of the most recent reports came from a Catholic church in Texas. In that case, biologists determined the red color of the host was caused by a combination of a fungus and bacteria that were incubated in water in a glass stored in the open air.

Rose French • 612-673-4352