All eyes were on Dübendorf in Switzerland yesterday evening, where a Capuchin and Jesuit priest were planning to celebrate Eucharist with a Lutheran pastor, three Reformed pastors, and an Orthodox priest. Such “intercelebration” (as it’s called there) has become a custom for the past five years on the annual feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29th by the organization “Ökumenisches Tisch-Gemeinschaft Symbolon” (“Ecumenical Table Fellowship Symbolon”). A week ago Symbolon issued a manifesto calling leaders of the various Church traditions to common Eucharistic celebrations.
But this year the Catholic priests bowed out at the last minute – in order not to make the deliberations more difficult for Swiss Catholic bishops called to Rome this Monday to discuss the controversial Pfarrei-Initiative (“Parish Initiative”). The Pfarrei-Initiative, a Catholic movement which calls for various reforms including ecumenical Eucharistic celebrations, is supported by 540 signatories (priests and pastoral ministers) with a further 1,090 signing to indicate their sympathy.
The church of the Lazarist order was packed last night, singing rang out, there was much incense (the rite was based on the famous 1982 Lima document “Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry” of the World Council of Churches). And then Capuchin Fr. Willi Anderau, speaking also for Jesuit Fr. Josef Bruhin, announced they were declining to co-preside this year. It became very quiet, then there were murmurs of anger, until a woman shouted out, “I protest against the half-heartedness of this thing” and left the church. A few joined her, but most remained.
The Eucharist continued, with the Lutheran and Reformed pastors presiding. The Orthodox archpriest Ignatios Papadellis, under pressure from his superiors, was not present at all. The two Catholic priests participated as guests, but remained sitting as their Protestant colleagues distributed the blessed eucharistic elements.
Speaking to the media after the celebration, Anderau said there was intense pressure from the Diocese of Chur. The bishops have been called to Rome to discuss the Pfarrei-Initiative, and he indicated that the intercelebration would have given ammunition to the opponents of the Initiative.
Today the Diocese of Chur called on the Pfarrei-Initiative to distance itself clearly from such intercelebration. Though the Initiative did not sponsor the intercelebration, its statement is supportive of such celebrations, and Anderau and Bruhin are both signatories of the Initiative. The diocese said in a statement that the reason given for declining to participate – not to encumber tomorrow’s discussion between the Swiss bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – leads to the conclusion that they are not intending, “beyond such tactics, to hold themselves to the order of the universal Church.”
Tomorrow the Catholic bishops of Basel, Chur, and St. Gall – Felix Gmür, Vitus Huonder, and Markus Büchel – will meet with the prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Gerhard Müller.