Pope Francis asked the bishops of Germany to continue working together to find broader consensus on guidelines for allowing a Protestant married to a Catholic to receive the Eucharist.
“Pope Francis appreciates the ecumenical commitment of the German bishops and asks them to find, in a spirit of ecclesial communion, a result as unanimously as possible,” the German bishops were told, according to a Vatican statement.
The Pope had invited six German bishops and the general secretary of the bishops’ conference to Rome for a meeting with top officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
In February, the Vatican statement said, “more than three-quarters of the members” of the German bishops’ conference approved a “pastoral handbook titled, ‘Walking with Christ – In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist’”.
However, the Vatican said, “a not insignificant number” of bishops, including seven who head dioceses, could not give their assent to the document. “These seven turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.”
Pope Francis invited leaders of the bishops’ conference and some of the bishops opposed to the guidelines to come to the Vatican for a discussion with officials from the three offices.
“Various points of view were discussed; for example, how the question relates to the Faith and to pastoral care, its relevance for the universal Church and its juridical dimension,” the Vatican statement said, without providing further details.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, one of the seven German bishops who objected to the conference guidelines, participated in the meeting at the Vatican.
In his letter to the Vatican, which prompted the meeting, he had asked whether the guidelines were not simply pastoral, but went to the heart of Catholic faith and practice, and whether the German guidelines could have a wider impact on the question of eucharistic hospitality in countries around the world.