Catholic and Protestant leaders in Germany share communion

Catholic Protestant in Germany

Protestant and Catholic worshippers in Germany defied Church teaching on Sunday by participating in each other’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper at an Ecumenical Convention in Frankfurt.

Bettina Limperg, the Lutheran co-president of the Ecumenical Church Congress, received Holy Communion in a Catholic church.

Thomas Sternberg, fellow co-president and head of the influential lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), received communion during a service at a Protestant church.

The ecumenical convention has attracted hundreds of thousands of people in the past. This year it was not as well attended due to COVID restrictions.

“We live an ecumenical hospitality,” Sternberg told reporters at the end of the event called Ökumenischen Kirchentag. “The whole thing touched me very, very deeply.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, told an online discussion in late April that “anyone who is Protestant and attends Communion can receive Communion” at the ecumenical event.

“We want to take steps towards unity,” he said, adding that “whoever believes in conscience what is celebrated in the other denomination will also be able to approach [the altar] and won’t be rejected.” He said the practice is already “maintained up and down the country” and is actually “nothing new.”

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had earlier described the invitation as a provocation.

“Anyone who contradicts Catholic teaching and its binding interpretation by the Roman teaching office is no longer Catholic,” the cardinal told the German press agency DPA.

Last September, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a four-page critique and letter to Bishop Bätzing explaining that doctrinal differences with Protestants are “still so weighty” that “mutual participation in the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist” was not possible.

Following the Vatican intervention, Bätzing repeatedly ruled out general intercommunion, while saying that he respects the “personal decision of conscience” of individual Protestants to receive Communion in Catholic churches.

Pope Francis’ has made frequent statements that it should be left both to an individual’s conscience and to local bishops to decide over whether Holy Communion for Protestants can be allowed, especially with regards Protestant spouses. This model of decentralization is “the way that we’re trying,” Bishop Bätzing said last month.


Catholic News Agency

National Catholic Register


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