A German cardinal and the head of the country’s principal Protestant Churches have pledged that “we will not give up” on the search for shared Communion.
– Cardinal Marx: “I would like to see we Christians celebrate the Eucharist together without us becoming a unified Church”
“We will not give up. I can promise that”, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) – a body representing 20 Churches and 23 million German Protestants – told radio station Bayern2 in an interview October 9.
Also participating in the interview was Catholic Archbishop of Munich and Freising Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who added that “I would like to see we Christians celebrate the Eucharist together without us becoming a unified Church”.
– New reactions from Churches, theologians to Vatican veto
Bedford-Strohm and Marx were reacting to a September 18 warning from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that a September 2019 proposal for “reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality” drawn up by a joint working group of Catholic and Protestant theologians contained doctrinal errors.
This past week the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference published on its website the full text of the Vatican warning, and acknowledged that “for the Catholic Church, the open questions are so weighty that it does not feel able to allow mutual participation in general before they are clarified, especially since the question of the unity of the Catholic Church is affected here as well”.
Though it criticised some parts of the Vatican warning, the Council of the EKD recognised that between the Catholic Mass and the Protestant Communion there are differences “above all in practice, but also in the understanding of what is celebrated”.
The ecumenical working group of theologians for its part, meanwhile, recalled that “the search for truth, the content of the gospel, in principle can only be carried out within the Church in a dialogical manner, and dialogue also means transparency”.
– “This is a lead that we will pursue”
Speaking to Bayern2, Marx recognised that after the latest Vatican ‘no’ to shared Communion it would be an arduous path to the Churches one day celebrating together, but said he nonetheless was hopeful that it would eventually become a reality.
The cardinal also observed that on the question of shared Communion the ball is in the court of the Catholic Church, “since the others want to and we say ‘no'”. Nonetheless, Marx warned against making reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality the only goal of ecumenism, since “that is not entirely fair”.
Bedford-Strohm, for his part, acknowledged that he was disappointed by the Roman rejection, but said that the discussion was not at an end.
“This is a lead that we will pursue”, promised the EKD Council chair, adding that on the part of the German Catholic Bishops he senses a “very strong will” to move forward on the shared Communion issue.
– Bishops win peace prize for being “models of ecumenical understanding”
Bedford-Strohm and Marx were speaking ahead of their being honoured Saturday night with the 2020 Augsburg Peace Prize for their “unconditional will to live together in peace”.
In the radio interview Saturday morning, the Lutheran bishop said that the Peace Prize was recognition not just for him and the cardinal but also “for all those people who are committed to ecumenism, who practice ecumenism every day”.
Marx in turn called the award acknowledgment “that we as Christian Churches want to make peace together, build bridges, give hope”.
In the ceremony Saturday evening, former President of Germany Joachim Gauck hailed the two Christian leaders as “models of ecumenical understanding”.