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German bishops resume inter-Communion debate

WASHINGTON (CNS): The German Bishops’ Conference published the Orientation Guide in the Responsibility of Individual Bishops on June 27 despite Pope Francis asking them this past May not to publish, deeming that the document “has not matured enough to be published (Sunday Examiner, June 10).
According to DomRadio, the official news site of the Diocese of Cologne, the guide is the same handout that the bishops’ conference developed in February, but with a different title.
However, the document is not readily available for public viewing.
The bishops said that when the conference meet in September, they will continue to examine the issue of Communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics.
Pope Francis clarified his position on the matter during a flight from Geneva to Rome on June 21, saying that the problem was not the subject matter of the debate, but rather the bishops’ approach to creating new norms for the German Catholic Church at a national level. He said the guidelines went beyond what is foreseen by the Code of Canon Law “and there is the problem.” 
The code does not provide for nationwide policies but “provides for the bishop of the diocese (to make a decision on each case), not the bishops’ conference,” the pope pointed out.
But the German bishops said the text of their pastoral handout does “not appear as a document of the bishops’ conference, given that it also relates to a dimension of the universal Church,” and that the text is “within the responsibility of individual bishops as an aid to orientation.”
Reinhard Cardinal Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, said there were several reasons why the bishops decided to move forward with their plans to address the matter as a national conference. He cited a May 25 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which he said provided “indications and a framework for interpretation.”
The bishops said they were on a quest to achieve Christian unity and believe themselves “obliged to stride forward in this matter courageously.”
They cited their previous reasons for examining the issue and stated that they are still intent on pursuing questions related to individual cases on a national level.
“We as bishops are concerned here with the question of the Protestant spouse in an interdenominational marriage receiving Communion,” they said in their statement.
“The topic is to be explored in greater detail. ... We would like to offer the Holy Father and the Roman Curia our assistance in this matter,” the statement said.

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