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Snapshot

Big Number: Eucharistic uncertainty

A parishioner took communion during the final service at St Francis X. Cabrini church in Scituate in 2016.
A parishioner took communion during the final service at St Francis X. Cabrini church in Scituate in 2016.(Keith Bedford/Globe Staff, file)

31 percent

Just under a third of Roman Catholics in the United States say they believe in transubstantiation — the notion that the sacramental bread and wine used in Communion literally become the body and blood of Christ.

The Eucharist is a central tenet of the Catholic faith — and led some Romans to believe early Christians were cannibals — but in a new Pew Research Center survey, 69 percent of self-described Catholics said they believe the wine and wafer are symbols of Christ’s blood and body, not the real deal.

Only about half the Catholics surveyed were even able to correctly state the doctrine on transubstantiation; the other half inaccurately said the church teaches that the bread and wine are symbolic.

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.