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Seven German bishops seek to block intercommunion proposal

VATICAN (Agencies): The National Catholic Register reported on April 4 that a recent proposal by the German Bishops Conference to allow some Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion under certain conditions is meeting serious resistance in Germany, as well as opposition from some Church leaders elsewhere.
 
On April 4, the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper reported that seven German bishops, among them Rainer Cardinal Woelki of Cologne, issued an urgent appeal to the Vatican in protest against the proposal.
 
According to German media, the seven bishops wrote in their letter that they believe the proposal contradicts Catholic doctrine, undermines Church unity and exceeds the competence of the bishops’ conference. The letter, leaked to the media on April 4, was sent in March to both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
 
Reinhard Cardinal Marx of Munich and Freising, the president of the German bishops’ conference, sent a letter to Germany’s bishops immediately after the seven bishops’ letter was leaked, defending the decision bishops’ conference’s, saying it was consistent with theological and ecumenical texts and canon law, the Register reported.
 
Cardinal Marx also said it was the result of “the encouragement of Pope Francis to take further steps in ecumenism.”
 
During their spring conference in February, the German bishops voted in favour of producing a guide, or pastoral handout, to allow some Protestant spouses to receive Holy Communion under certain circumstances (Sunday Examiner, March 11).
 
They voted overwhelmingly to offer guidelines allowing a Protestant partner of a Catholic to receive the Eucharist if, after having made a “serious examination” of conscience with a priest or another person with pastoral responsibilities, the partner “affirms the faith of the Catholic Church,” wishes to end “serious spiritual distress,” and has a “longing to satisfy a hunger for the Eucharist.”
 
At the time, Cardinal Marx said the guide would only be a “pastoral handout” and that the intention is not to “change any doctrine.” He said the proposal rejects any path for Protestant spouses to conversion, otherwise known as an “ecumenism of return.” It also leaves much discretion of the local bishop who may establish new laws in this area, he said.
 
Only 13 of Germany’s 67 bishops voted against the proposal, or abstained, according to the Register.

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