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Roads to Eucharistic sharing

MALMO (SE): Sharing the Eucharist in an ecumenical setting is a stage of relations that across the board has not yet been achieved, as it is generally accepted that it is a sign of full reconciliation, a destination yet to be arrived at.

Kurt Cardinal Koch, the Swiss president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told a media conference during the visit of Pope Francis to Sweden that what is important is to distinguish between Eucharistic hospitality and Eucharistic communion.

CNS reported Cardinal Koch as saying that Eucharistic hospitality is a welcoming of guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under particular circumstances.

He added that the one necessary condition is that the guest being welcomed recognises that there is a real presence of Christ in the sacrament.

Eucharistic communion, on the other hand, he described as a regular situation of set and prescribed circumstances whereby people receive communion together as a recognition that they belong to the same family.

“The other question is hospitality in the case of a mixed marriage,” CNS quoted Cardinal Koch as saying. “It is a pastoral question. It is very difficult to give a universal declaration, because the pastoral situations are very different.”

The joint declaration made by the Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Lund cathedral in Sweden on October 31 and signed by Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, as a representative of the Lutheran denomination, includes the recognition that “many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.”

While the Swiss cardinal referred to this as a theological question, he clarified that the case of a mixed denomination marriage is a pastoral question.

He pointed out that in particular, Catholic-Lutheran couples experience the pain of sharing their whole lives, but being separated at the table of the Lord.

He then quoted the pope and Bishop Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation, as saying, “We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ.”

However, that is where the two leaders of Catholicism and Lutheranism stopped, as they did not authorise any further opportunities for shared communion.

But what they did express is a longing for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed with the help of increased theological dialogue.

Reverend Martin Junge, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, added, “At this point in time we don’t have a concrete model of how we would go about making pastoral provisions for couples in mixed marriages.”

Nevertheless, he admitted, “It is around the table where people in our communities experience the fragmentation of the Church the hardest, and that requires a response.”

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