The head of the Protestant Churches in Germany has said he sees Cardinal Reinhard Marx as an “ally” in his search for shared communion.

Driving the news

Lutheran Bavarian state bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm – the chairman of the German umbrella organization of Protestant, Lutheran and reformist churches, the EKD – told the Munich Press Club January 23 that it is a “scandal” that the Church is divided and that “there is no future for the Church, except an ecumenical one”.

That ecumenical future, Bedford-Strohm was careful to point out, should not consist in a mere amalgamation of the different Churches, but a mutual sharing of the rich spiritual traditions that characterise them.

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Although the Lutheran bishop rejected an ecumenism of homogeneity between the Churches, he also said he would never be satisified until Christians of different denominations could share a common communion.

On that question of shared Eucharistic hospitality, Bedford-Strohm said he had found support in German Bishops’ President and Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Marx.

“We are true friends and do not allow ourselves to become divided. The Churches are not”, the EKD chair explained.

He added that there isn’t a Cathoic God and a separate Protestant God, just as there is no Catholic suffering and Protestant suffering.

That’s a stimulus, Bedford-Strohm said, for the Churches to work more closely together and not duplicate efforts.

Why it matters

One issue Bedford-Strohm and Marx have worked particularly closely together on is the question of sea rescue in the Mediterranean and the welcome of migrants and refugees.

Marx has donated 50,000 euros towards the purchase of an EKD rescue ship – “United 4 Rescue” – for whose floating Bedford-Strohm has received death threats, but which he said Thursday haven’t reached him so deeply as to make him lose any sleep.

Both churchmen are living out precisely what Pope Francis said January 22 in the general audience during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: that “hospitality” to foreigners – as an “important ecumenical virtue” – “will make all us Christians… better human beings, better disciples and a more united Christian people”.

“We want people to be able to live safely and with dignity. You can’t let them drown for political or deterrent reasons”, Bedford-Strohm insisted.

Marx had professed similar sentiments in the central ecumenical service for the Week of Christian Unity Wednesday in a sermon at Munich cathedral.

Although “there are no easy answers to the questions of [refugee] flight and migration”, that doesn’t mean Christians can abandon their Gospel duty and “release political actors from their responsibility to ensure that death in the Mediterranean stops”, Marx said.

Next on Novena:

Vatican official, on Christian unity: “Do we collude with indifference, or show a ‘rare kindness’?”

German Protestant head receives death threats for floating refugee rescue ship to which Cardinal Marx has also donated

Cardinal Marx deplores Europe refugee “scandal”: “The dead in the Mediterranean are Christ”

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German bishop kicks can down road on shared Communion with Protestants… but theologians still hopeful

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.