Lutherans to decide if they can receive Communion, Pope Francis suggests

Lutherans married to Catholics can discern for themselves whether or not they should receive Communion in Catholic churches, Pope Francis appears to have suggested. 

Speaking at Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran church, the Holy Father also called for “reconciled diversity” between Catholics and Lutherans, both of whom, he said, must seek forgiveness for historic persecutions. He described the recent joint document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 as reflecting an important Catholic reevaluation of Luther’s aims.

The Pontiff’s comments came after a woman, Anke de Bernardinis, described how she and her Catholic husband were saddened by her inability to receive the Eucharist. “We have lived together for many years, sharing joys and pains,” she said, “And therefore it hurts us very much being divided in the faith and not being able to participate together at the Lord’s Supper. What can we do to reach, finally, communion on this point?”


Reflecting on Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, Pope Francis said he wonders whether Communion is “the end of a path” or “the viaticum [food for the journey] for walking together”. Although there are differences between Catholics and Lutherans, they share a common Baptism, he observed, “and if we have the same baptism, we must walk together”.

Describing Mrs de Bernardinis’s path as especially profound “because it is a conjugal path, a path truly of family, of human love, and of shared faith”, he said it was not his “competence” to give permission to people in her situation, but to encourage them to listen to what God is telling them. She should, he advised, ask herself “What can I do with my husband, so that the Lord’s Supper accompanies me in the paths of my life?”

A similar problem preoccupied his late friend Tony Palmer, the Protestant bishop who died after a road accident in 2013 and who had been married to a Catholic, he continued. “Speak with the Lord and go forward,” he said. “I do not dare to say more.”


1993’s Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism allows for Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances, providing that non-Catholics hold to the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist and are properly disposed to receive it.