CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 May 2018

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Pope calls German cardinal to Rome to discuss Eucharistic sharing guidelines

VATICAN (CNS): Pope Francis has asked Reinhard Cardinal Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, to come to Rome to discuss pastoral guidelines for possibly allowing some non-Catholics married to Catholics to receive the Eucharist, Matthias Kopp, the conference spokesperson said on April 19.
 
The cardinal had announced on February 22 at the end of plenary meeting of the episcopal conference, that three-quarters of the German bishops approved the development of pastoral guidelines for determining situations in which a non-Catholic spouse married to a Catholic could receive Communion.
 
The cardinal explained at the time that “the background is the high proportion of mixed marriages and families in Germany, where we recognise a challenging and urgent pastoral task” to determine if and under what circumstances couples of different denominations who regularly go to church together can receive the Eucharist together.
 
The possibility, he had said, would require a discussion with the pastor or a designated member of the parish staff to ensure that the non-Catholic receiving Communion “could confess the Eucharistic faith of the Catholic Church.”
 
Cardinal Marx added, “This assistance will give help in concrete cases of mixed-denomination marriages and create a greater clarity and security for pastors and married people.”
 
However, about a month later, seven German bishops, including Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki of Cologne, sent a letter to Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Kurt Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, asking for confirmation of their belief that a bishops’ conference does not have the authority to expand permissions for non-Catholics to receive Communion (Sunday Examiner, April 15).
 
However reports that “the document was rejected in the Vatican by the Holy Father or by the dicasteries are false,” according to Kopp, who pointed out that the guidelines still have not been finalised and, therefore, they have not been reviewed by the Vatican.
 
Members of the German Bishops’ Conference were asked to submit proposed amendments to the draft document by Easter and the heads of the conference’s doctrinal and ecumenical committees, and the president of the conference were to formulate a final draft and present it to the conference’s permanent council on April 23.
 
In general, Catholic teaching insists that sharing the sacrament of Communion will be a sign that Christian Churches have reconciled with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may be invited to the Eucharist.
 
During Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden in 2016, Cardinal Koch was asked about the situations in which such sharing would be permitted. In reply, he said a distinction must be made between “Eucharistic hospitality for individual people and Eucharistic communion.”
 
The term hospitality refers to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances, as long as they recognise the sacrament as the real presence of Christ. Eucharistic communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognised as belonging to the same Church family, he explained.

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