On papal flight, Francis says intercommunion policy should be decided by diocesan bishops

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 05:22 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that the German bishops’ debate on the reception of the Eucharist by the non-Catholic spouses of Catholics, also referred to as intercommunion, should be decided by diocesan bishops, rather than bishops’ conferences.

Speaking aboard the papal flight from Geneva to Rome June 21, the pope told journalists that the Code of Canon Law leaves decisions about the criteria for intercommunion to diocesan bishops, in order that their decisions will apply only to their individual dioceses, rather than to the Church across an entire country.

The pope said that although the German bishops attempted to establish guidelines through their episcopal conference, “the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.”

“The particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal,” Francis elaborated.

“The conference can study and give direction and opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases,” the pope added.

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law generally allows for episcopal conferences to establish norms regarding the circumstances in which non-Catholic Christians may be admitted to the Eucharist.

In the danger of death, or “if in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers may licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed,” the canon says.

The same canon notes that “the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.”

The pope’s remarks were in response to a question about a letter he approved, sent from Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria to the German bishops in May, asking them to study the topic more before publishing guidelines.

The pope added that communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics “in special cases” is not a “novelty,” mentioning again the Code of Canon Law.

The Vatican press office could not be reached for clarification by deadline.

During the press conference, Pope Francis also addressed his feelings on the outcome of the day trip to Switzerland, which he undertook for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, saying the day’s activities of prayer, speeches, meetings, and Mass had all made him happy.

“The right word of the day is ‘encounter,’ and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even,” he said.

Francis also addressed the topics of immigration and refugees, the responsibility of religions to promote peace, and ecumenism.

About immigration, he noted that mass-migration is a problem around the world, and that a country should welcome as many refugees as it can integrate and give work to, in light of the virtue of prudence.

The pope also lamented the conditions which many refugees may face if they return to their country of origin, including the increased risk of being trafficked.

Speaking particularly of the United States, the pope reiterated his comments in a recent interview with Reuters, that he backs the statements of the U.S. bishops on the issue.

Answering a question on the topic of so-called “pacifist Churches,” which hold that a Christian cannot use or condone violence, Francis refuted the idea that there are “religions of peace,” as if that implied the existence of “religions of war.”

He said that religious fundamentalism exists, with people who “seek wars,” which it is important to stay alert to, but that during this time, when there is a “crisis of human rights,” all churches should work together to bring about a spirit of peace in the world.

The press conference concluded with Pope Francis presenting a slice of cake to Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu, currently Substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State.

Francis, offering the slice of Sardinian cake, noted that it was Becciu’s last trip with the pope, because he will soon “change color, but not for embarrassment,” referencing the archbishop’s recent appointment as a cardinal.


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  1. It was apparent that the Pontiff was biding his time with the initial rejection of the German Bishops’ proposal for intercommunion. His objection fundamentally addressed lack of maturity of the document. Insofar as canon 844 it does not permit intercommunion beyond extreme, exceptional conditions unlike the original German proposal. I agree with Sol in repudiating the Pontiff’s offhand remark which as usual what will inevitably be acknowledged elsewhere and become universal policy. Exactly what the Pontiff portends to avoid in leaving the matter to individual bishops rather than assuming the responsibility of his office the Chair of Peter. Unfortunately a Synod won’t work since Rome has final authority over any form of council. Honorius was condemned a heretic posthumously. This has been our Pontiff’s method throughout his pontificate effecting doctrinal change by delegating his authority and making remarks outside the spectrum of official magisterial pronouncement. All bishops all Hierarchy in fact the Church as a body is obliged to reject what will inevitably be – due to Protestant recipients who don’t possess full faith don’t confess serious sin don’t follow Catholic doctrine – the desecration of the Holy Eucharist.

  2. This is outright heresy. I’m sorry, but to put it any other way would be a lie. To give the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Christ to those who do not share an integral Catholic faith lived in a life of sanctifying is a sacrilegious charade beyond compare. To claim that individual bishops can make individual decisions is to destroy the unity of the Faith and to rip apart the Mystical Body of Christ. Where is the outrage? Where is the condemnation and resistance? And these are the bishops that are talking in their pajama-boy Ft. Lauderdale $1,000 a night hotel suites about evangelizing culture? This is a living nightmare from Hell itself.

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