German President: Catholic Church Should ‘Share’ Communion with Protestants

In this May 29, 2013 photo, a priest blesses the wine and bread as he celebrates Mass at a Catholic church in Caracas, Venezuela. Church officials say food shortages and foreign exchange restrictions are causing a lack of ingredients needed to celebrate Mass: altar wine as well as wheat to …
AP Photo/Fernando Llano

One thing I would ask Pope Francis, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said last week, is for the Catholic Church to show greater openness in “sharing in the Lord’s Supper and Communion” with Protestants.

Speaking “not as federal president, but as a devout Evangelical Christian living in a mixed marriage,” Steinmeier addressed his concerns to the tens of thousands of Catholics gathered in Münster for the 101st meeting of Katholikentag, a Catholic festival whose origins date back to 1848.

Sharing in Communion would better “express the common Christian faith,” Steinmeier said, and promote “further ecumenical integration.”

“Thousands of Christians in interdenominational marriages hope for that,” he added.

The German president’s words followed on a hotly debated proposal by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive communion under some limited circumstances. Seven German bishops subsequently asked the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for clarification on the matter, but were reportedly told that Pope Francis wants the bishops to come to an agreement among themselves.

In his opening address at Katholikentag, the German president also spoke on the need for religions to serve the cause of peace, which is not always the case.

“Religion, as history teaches us, is not peaceful per se,” Steinmeier said. “One’s claim to truth can lead to aggressive self-assertion. But all great religions know the commitment to peace.”

“And in a country where the cross, the kippah and the headscarf meet in the same city, in the same district, on the same street, religions have an undeniable responsibility for peace,” he said. “Everyone should be able to live according to their faith in our country and be allowed to do so—without fear, but also without claiming power.”

Steinmeier also took advantage of the platform to criticize U.S. president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

“I believe that a long-term peace in the Middle East has certainly not become more probable with yesterday’s decision by the U.S. President to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran Agreement,” Steinmeier said. “The spirit of the agreement, namely to break the spiral of escalation through negotiation and a binding agreement, has now given way again to the danger of even more confrontation and more unpredictability in this already tense region.”

“Peace diplomacy suffered a heavy setback last night,” he said. “And that is bitter at a time when we need it more urgently than ever.”

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