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Vatican official explains limits of eucharistic sharing

Cardinal Kurt Koch acknowledged the difficulties faced by Catholic-Lutheran married couples unable to share the sacrament of Communion

Sharing the sacrament of Communion continues to be a sign that Christian churches have reconciled fully with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may be invited to the Eucharist, said Cardinal Kurt Koch.

The Swiss cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told a news conference today that the Catholic Church makes a distinction between “Eucharistic hospitality for individual people and Eucharistic communion."

The term hospitality is used to refer to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances as long as they recognise the sacrament as the real presence of Christ.

Eucharist Communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognised as belonging to the same family.

“The other question – hospitality in the case of a mixed marriage – is a pastoral question. It is very difficult to give a universal declaration because the pastoral situations are very different," Cardinal Koch said.

Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation signed a joint declaration on October 31, which included recognition that “many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity."

Catholic-Lutheran married couples, in particular, “experience the pain" of sharing their whole lives, but being separated at the table of the Lord. “We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ," they said.

The two leaders did not authorise further opportunities for shared Communion, but expressed longing “for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed" with the help of increased theological dialogue.

Speaking at same conference, the Reverend Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, said: “At this point in time we don’t have a concrete model of how we would go about making pastoral provisions for couples in mixed marriages."

However, he added: “it is around the table where people in our communities experience the fragmentation of the Church the hardest, and that requires a response."


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