The Archbishop of Paderborn, Germany, announced that Protestant spouses of Catholics in his diocese may receive Holy Communion in individual cases according to pastoral judgement.
Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker made the announcement June 27 to his presbyteral council, saying that according to his interpretation of a document called “pastoral guidance,” published by the German Bishops Conference, priests may determine to allow Protestant spouses to receive the Eucharist in certain cases, according to Crux Now. Becker clarified, however, that his interpretation of “pastoral guidance” did not amount to a general permission for all Protestant spouses of Catholics in his diocese to receive communion.
“At the meeting of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Paderborn on June 27, 2018, I presented my interpretation [of the document] and formulated the expectation that all pastors in the Archdiocese of Paderborn will familiarize themselves intensively with the guidance document and will act in a spirit of pastoral responsibility,” Becker said, according to German newspaper Westfalenblatt.
Becker referred to marriages between Catholics and Protestants as “denomination-uniting” marriages, and said that spouses in such marriages are linked by their Christian faith, baptism and the sacrament of marriage. He acknowledged that Protestant spouses may have a longing to receive Holy Communion and that it is “a matter of arriving at a responsible decision of conscience.”
Becker’s announcement comes in the wake of controversy concerning Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s February announcement that the German Bishops Conference would publish guidelines for allowing Protestant spouses to receive communion. Several German bishops sought clarification from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity as to whether a national bishops conference had the authority to decide such a matter. (RELATED: Vatican To Consider Allowing Sacrament Of Communion For Non-Catholic Spouses)
Pope Francis initially approved a letter from Archbishop Luis Ladaria that put a halt to the conference’s plans to publish the guidelines on communion for Protestant spouses. Francis later clarified that the decision should be left up to diocesan bishops, since a decision by a bishops conference would be interpreted as universal for the church. The guidelines have since been published under the name “pastoral guidance” with the understanding that it is not an official ruling by the bishops conference and that individual diocesan bishops may choose how to interpret the guidelines for their respective dioceses.
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