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This article was published in the Summer 2003 issue of The Journal.

German guidelines on eucharistic sharing: a correction

It has been pointed out to us that we gave a misleading title to a document that we published in Interchurch Families 6,1, January 1998. We apologise for any confusion caused.

The heading read: 'Eucharistic Sharing in Interchurch Marriages and Families: Guidelines from the German Bishops, February 1997'. In fact, as our introduction made clear, the text that we printed was issued by the Ecumenical Commission of the German Bishops' Conference. It was not issued as a document bearing the authority of the whole Bishops' Conference, unlike some other guidelines (for instance, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Directory and the British and Irish Bishops' One Bread One Body). It was issued on the authority of the Ecumenical Commission.

The German Bishops' Conference is now preparing a text that will have a similar degree of authority to those of the Southern African and British and Irish Bishops. We quote a passage from the press statement given by Cardinal Lehmann (President of the Episcopal Conference) at the end of the plenary assembly held 18th-21st February 2002 in Stuttgart-Hohenheim.

We have asked the Ecumenical Commission to work to produce a statement on the theme of 'Church and Eucharist ' ... . In this connection the question arises as to whether Protestant Christians could be admitted to share in Holy Communion at the Catholic eucharist. This is not about reciprocity in eucharistic sharing. which raises fundamental difficulties concerning church and ministry. It is about admission to communion; on this the existing church discipline at world level has been the subject of lengthy discussion. The outstanding question for our church is that of the situation of mixed marriages or - as one more frequently says nowadays interchurch marriages. Clearly we cannot deal with this simply by recourse to the recognised situations of need: notably danger of death, or imprisonment. Mixed marriages have to be seen as a particular life situation for Christians, whose communion in marriage is grounded in baptism and rooted in the sacramental nature of their Christian marriage. There must be further exploration of how far the profound ecclesial character of communion in marriage may justify exceptional admission to the eucharist. This is not so much a matter of unique occasions celebrated in the life of the family, such as First Communion, but more a matter of the constant striving of the couple to live their path of faith together. The pastor who accompanies a couple has a particular role here.

If possible we would like a text to be issued before the Ecumenical Kirchentag in 2003; however, because it will be strictly limited to mixed marriages, it will have no direct connection with Berlin 2003. Because a central theological, ecumenical and pastoral problem is at stake here, the plenary assembly is convinced of the need for very intensive work to be done.

As we go to press, there is as yet no further news of the expected document.