US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Intercommunion for papal trip to Germany: Why not?

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The October issue of US Catholic has a Glad You Asked titled, "Can a Catholic receive communion in a Protestant church?" As if on cue, the pope's coming visit to Germany is drawing the same question from Protestants, who would like German Protestants and Catholics to be able to celebrate common eucharist.

While the Reuters story about the visit suggests that Catholic leaders are downplaying any hopes for a fuller recognition by Rome of the Reformation churches during his visit, and a major breakthrough is unlikely, I have a proposal: At one of the papal Masses, the pope should invite Christians of other churches who have "Catholic faith" in the Eucharist (many Lutherans do) to receive communion as a foretaste of our hope in full communion.

Sound crazy? I don't think so. The pope gave communion to Tony Blair, for example, before the former British PM became Catholic, and Catholic liturgical law does make provision for intercommunion in special circumstances.

This would be a new step, but it would be welcome one for many Germans. Since it is an invitation to individuals, it doesn't require any further "recognition" of the churches of the Reformation. It would be up to individuals to present themselves. And since it's a special occasion--a papal Mass by a German pope on a state visit to his own country in the heart of Reformation country--it doesn't set a precedent. It's just a one-time opportunity for "separated" Christians to share together in a single Eucharist. As GYA author Kevin Considine put it, intercommunion in this instance may allow us to gain the "needed grace" to push toward greater unity.