Protestant and Catholic worshippers in Germany defied Church teaching on Sunday by taking part in each other’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper at an Ecumenical Convention in Frankfurt.
In four services in the city, Catholics were invited to take part in an Evangelical Supper with Protestants and similarly invited to celebrate the Catholic Eucharist, with the decision to receive Holy Communion at Mass or bread at a Protestant service left to an individual’s conscience.
At an evening Mass in Frankfurt’s Imperial Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, the convention’s Protestant president, Bettina Limperg, received Holy Communion while her Catholic counterpart, Thomas Sternberg, took part in a Protestant Lord’s Supper service in the German city. Although the ecumenical convention has attracted hundreds of thousands of people in the past, it was not as well attended this year due to COVID restrictions.
“We live an ecumenical hospitality,” Sternberg told reporters at the end of the event called Ökumenischen Kirchentag. “The whole thing touched me very, very deeply.”
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had earlier described the invitation as a provocation.
“Anyone who contradicts Catholic teaching and its binding interpretation by the Roman teaching office is no longer Catholic,” the cardinal told the German press agency DPA.
The events followed comments last month from Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, who told an online discussion in late April that “anyone who is Protestant and attends Communion can receive Communion” at the ecumenical event.
“We want to take steps towards unity,” he said, adding that “whoever believes in conscience what is celebrated in the other denomination will also be able to approach [the altar] and won’t be rejected.” He said the practice is already “maintained up and down the country” and is actually “nothing new.”
He later qualified his comments, saying the event would not be “about intercommunion” in a general sense but about respecting an individual’s conscience. He also stressed there could be no joint celebration of the Mass by clergy of different denominations, and that the event would be “ecumenically sensitive.”
The Catholic dean of Frankfurt cathedral, Father Johannes zu Eltz, apologized to Protestants in his homily for having had to struggle on account of Catholic “arrogance” and “efforts of demarcation.”
Read more at National Catholic Register