Communion for Protestants married to Catholics requires further study

A letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sheds light on Pope Francis’ position regarding the Eucharist in inter-communion marriages. The issue has been raised by the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference and regards an ecumenical theme that concerns the Universal Church.

Pope Francis has invited German bishops to await legislation that is applicable to the whole universal Church on the delicate question of allowing Protestants who are married to Catholics to receive Communion in Catholic Churches.

His request came in a letter sent on his behalf by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, to the President of the German Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

The text highlights the need to carefully evaluate the repercussions and impact that any decision may have on the balances achieved in ecumenical dialogue.

The position of the German bishops

A majority of German bishops this year voted to publish guidelines that would have made it easier for Protestants to receive the Eucharist at Mass in a Catholic Church and sometimes wine that have been consecrated.

The subject of what is known as “inter-communion” in marriages between Catholics and Protestants is a possibility recognized by Canon Law under certain conditions.

The issue was addressed last February by the German bishops in a document entitled “Walking with Christ – in the footsteps of unity. Mixed marriages and common participation in the Eucharist”.

The bishops who supported “inter-communion” argued that it was the compassionate thing to do.

Bishops to decide on a case-to-case basis

The prelates who had not expressed a favourable opinion during the plenary – and who had written their concerns in a letter to Pope Francis, were invited to study the question directly with the leaders of the CDF and the Dicastery for Christian Unity and the legislative texts.

Pending further study, Pope Francis’ letter refers to the Diocesan Bishop the responsibility of deciding on a case to case basis.

By Linda Bordoni

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