This morning Pope Francis visited the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rome. Here is an English translation of what Pope Francis said to the Lutheran woman, married to a Catholic man, when asked about the possibility of sharing together in Communion. H/T Whispers in the Loggia.
The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper – I’m scared!
I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this mandatum to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem – it’ll be there! But that will be the last one… in the meantime, I ask myself and don’t know how to respond – what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [etym. “to accompany you on the journey”] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand.
It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means that there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand. But I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? And you’re a witness of a likewise profound journey, a journey of marriage: itself a journey of family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.
When you feel yourself a sinner – and I’m much more of a sinner – when your husband feels he’s sinned, you go forward to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution, [thus] I’m healed and kept alive in my Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What did Jesus do for us?, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same.
The question [Pope draws question mark with his finger]…. The supper? There are questions that only if one is sincere with oneself and the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.
I once had a great friendship with a bishop who went a little wrong * – 48 years old, he married [then had] two children. This made for great discomfort in him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied them on Sunday, his wife and children, to Mass, and then went to worship with his community…. It was a step toward his participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, then the Lord called him [to realize] “I’m not right.” **
I can only respond to your question with a question: what can I do with my husband that the Lord’s Supper might accompany me on my path? It’s a problem that each must answer [for themselves], but a pastor-friend once told me that “We believe that the Lord is present, he is present” – you believe that the Lord is present. There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism – one faith, one baptism, one Lord: this Paul tells us; the consequences come later.
I would never dare to give permission to do this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and go forward. [Pauses] And I wouldn’t dare – I don’t dare say anything more.
On this difficult question we’ve had some fifty years now of studies and dialogues and papers and conferences and books and statements and official documents and…
If I’m not mistaken, the pope just cut through all of it and said everyone can follow their own conscience and decide for themselves.
True, this was only a Q&A and no official statement of the magisterium. But the pope said it. This is a significant.
* PT reader Padraig McCarthy points out that the official Italian text is “grande amacizia con un vescovo episcopaliano.” Francis did not say that the bishop went a little wrong.
** Padraig points out that that official Italian is: “il Signore lo ha chiamato, un uomo giusto.” This is quite the opposite of the translation, which should read: “The Lord called him, a just man.”