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Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

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German cardinal decries intercommunion with Protestants: it’s about ‘life and death’

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

June 5, 2018 (One Peter Five) – Last Thursday, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Cardinal Rainer Woelki, one of the seven German bishops who opposed the new German intercommunion handout allowing for some Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion, gave a moving speech at the end of the Procession and Pontifical Mass in his Cathedral of Cologne.

In this speech, Cardinal Woelki made it clear that he will not give up the fight for the right way with regard to matters of intercommunion, saying that this question is not "nonsense," but, rather: "Here, it is about questions of life and death!" "It is about death and resurrection. It is about eternal life," Woelki added. "Here, it is about Christ, it is about His Church, and thus it goes straight to the heart of the matter."

The German cardinal and successor of Cardinal Joachim Meisner as the Archbishop of Cologne continued, saying:

That is why we have to fight for it and to find the right path – not any path, but the Path of the Lord which He points out to us. He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Cardinal Woelki, who together with other six German bishops had written a letter to the Vatican in protest against the recent German intercommunion handout, rejected the claim that he had worked behind the back of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German bishops, saying: "I answer with [the words of] the Holy Scripture: I appeared openly and freely, and I wrote and said that which needed to be written and said, in all publicity."

The German prelate also warned against turning the Catholic Church in Germany into a "national church." "We are not a national church." Woelki, who was visibly moved while speaking, insisted that all national churches in the world have to walk together, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. "We walk toward Christ, in fidelity to the Deposit of Faith, as it has been handed down to us by the Apostles." He also encouraged the congregation to "deepen your faith in the Holy Eucharist" which is "the beating heart of the Church."

Woelki finally invited all Catholics to work together, rather than against one another.

His homily was welcomed by the faithful with a big round of applause.

Cardinal Woelki's words not only express a deep faith and devotion to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and a fidelity to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, he also reaffirmed hereby his decision to oppose a liberalizing attitude with regard to the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses. Only recently, on 18 May, he metin private audience Pope Francis in Rome, and Catholic observers assumed that the German intercommunion debate was the topic of this audience. No information was given by the Vatican concerning the content of that 18 May meeting.

However, the fact that Cardinal Woelki still now stands strong and firm and full of fire for Christ in the Holy Eucharist is a most encouraging sign.

Update, 5 June: 

Please see here the full speech as given by Cardinal Woelki last Saturday in Bensberg which has caused in recent days some concern as to whether he changed his position with regard to giving Holy Communion to Protestant spouses: http://www.erzbistum-koeln…. I  just received it from Woelki's press office. In it, the cardinal fully restates in detail the Catholic teaching in the question of intercommunion and insists upon it firmly. Woelki stresses that the reference to the so-called "emergency situations" which are very limited may not be used as a tool to "go together to Communion after all." He then mentions, in a low-key way, that there is an "unwritten rule in the Church" that one does not refuse someone at the Communion rail. He says such cases should be dealt with by the priest in pastoral conversations. But he insists that a couple in a mixed marriage may not go together to Holy Communion.

Published with permission from One Peter Five.

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