VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has made what many may regard as controversial remarks about admittance to Holy Communion of Lutherans and other Protestant denominations.
On Sunday, speaking to Evangelical Lutherans in Rome, the pope responded to a question posed to him by a non-Italian Lutheran woman married to an Italian Catholic man.
The Holy Father’s response suggests that while he was unprepared to pronounce with clarity on the issue, he considered the topic one that theologians such as Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (who was in attendance) might openly discuss.
Video with English subtitles.
Here below we publish an English translation of the question and response.
Visit to the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Words of Pope Francis
Sunday November 15, 2015
My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many women in our community, I am married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We have lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate together in the Lord’s Supper. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?
Thank you, Madame.
The question of sharing the Lord’s Supper is not easy for me to respond to, especially in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared!
I think of how the Lord told us, when he gave us this command: “Do this in memory of me.” And when we share the Lord’s Supper, we remember and we imitate, we do the same thing the Lord Jesus did.
And there will be the Lord’s Supper; there will be the eternal banquet in the New Jerusalem, but that will be the final one. But on the way, I wonder—and I don’t know how to respond, but I make your question my own—and I ask myself: Is sharing the Lord’s banquet the goal of a journey or is it the viaticum [provisions] for journeying together? I leave that question to the theologians, to those who understand.
It is true that, in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine—I underline that word, a word that’s difficult to understand. But I ask myself: but don’t we have the same baptism? And if we have the same baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together?
You are a witness to a profound journey, because it is a journey of marriage, a journey of the family and of human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same baptism.
When you feel like a sinner—and I feel I am a great sinner—when your husband feels like a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness. Your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks for absolution. They are remedies for keeping baptism alive. When you pray together, that baptism grows, it becomes stronger. When you teach your children who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you are doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same.
The question: And the [Lord’s] Supper? There are problems that, only if one is sincere with oneself, and with the little theological “lights” that I have, must be answered in the same way. See for yourselves.
“This is my Body. This is my Blood.” the Lord said. “Do this in remembrance of me,” and this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.
I had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop—he was 48 years old, married, two children, and he had this anxiety: His wife was Catholic, his children were Catholic, he was a bishop. He accompanied them on Sunday, his wife and children, to Mass, and then he went to worship with his community. It was a step to participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [home], a just man.
To your question, I can only respond with a question: What can I do with my husband, so that the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path? It is a problem that everyone has to answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?”—“Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations.
Always refer back to baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and from there take the consequences.
I would never dare to give permission for this, because it’s not my jurisdiction. “One baptism, one Lord, one faith.” Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.