Intercommunion to Be Studied

Doesn’t Seem an Adequate Means to Achieve Unity, Cautions Relator

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2005 ( Among the topics set forth for the debate of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist is that of «intercommunion» — whether non-Catholic Christians may receive holy Communion.

In his «report before the discussion,» the general relator, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, acknowledged that it is «a rather delicate pastoral problem» that enables one to understand better «the inseparable connection between the Eucharist and the Church.»

«The causality of the Eucharist over the Church — the Eucharist makes the Church — is essential and a priority with respect to that of the Church over the Eucharist — the Church makes the Eucharist,» he clarified in this connection.

Recalling that there already are numerous studies on the matter, the cardinal pointed out above all «the substantial communion of faith between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church on the theme of the Eucharist and the priesthood — communion that, through a major mutual study of the Eucharistic celebration and Divine Liturgy, is destined to grow.»

«We should also welcome positively the new climate on the Eucharist in the ecclesial communities born at the time of the Reformation,» the relator continued. «In different degrees and with few exceptions even these communities always underline the decisiveness of the Eucharist as the key element in dialogue and in ecumenical practice.

«On the basis of this and other data one can understand how, even after the pronouncements by the magisterium on this subject, this question is unceasingly asked: Can ‘intercommunion’ of the faithful belonging to different Churches and ecclesial communities constitute an adequate instrument to favor the path toward Christian unity?»

Integral faith

«The answer,» Cardinal Scola said, «depends upon the careful consideration of the nature of the Eucharistic action in all its fullness as ‘mysterium fidei.’ In fact, Eucharistic celebration is by its nature the profession of integral faith in the Church.

«Only inasmuch as it realizes the full profession of apostolic faith in this mystery does the Eucharist make the Church. If it is the Eucharist that ensures the true unity of the Church, celebration or participation in the Eucharist that does not imply the respect of all the factors that concur to its fullness would end up, despite the best of intentions, by further dividing ecclesial communion and its origins. Therefore, intercommunion does not seem to be an adequate means to achieve Christian unity.»

«This assertion on intercommunion does not exclude that, under special circumstances and with respect for the objective conditions, one may admit to the Eucharistic communion, as ‘panis viatorum’ [pilgrims’ bread], individual persons belonging to Churches or ecclesial communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church,» added the cardinal.

«In this case, the necessary rigor requires that we speak about Eucharistic hospitality,» he explained. «We are in the presence of the pastoral solicitude of the Church that encounters a particular circumstance of need of a baptized faithful.

«In these cases the Catholic Church allows Eucharistic communion to a non-Catholic faithful if he asks for it spontaneously, manifesting adhesion to the Catholic faith and spiritually well-disposed.»


The relator added: «The problems underlying the inadequate category of ‘intercommunion’ and the practice of Eucharistic hospitality require further reflection, starting from the intrinsic bond between the Eucharist and the Church, on the relationship between Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion.»

The cardinal concluded explaining that «not being allowed to Eucharistic concelebration and Eucharistic communion by Christians from different Churches and ecclesial communities and the exceptional quality of Eucharistic hospitality, are not only the cause for suffering: Rather, they must represent the permanent prodding for the continuous and common search for the ‘mysterium fidei’ that requires all Christians to unity in the integral profession of faith.»

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