Paderborn archbishop allows intercommunion in individual cases

The Westfalen-Blatt from Beilefeld reports that Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker of the Archdiocese of Paderborn will permit Protestant spouses of Roman Catholics to receive Communion in individual cases.

The orientation guide drafted by the German bishops allowing such limited intercommunion was recently rejected by the Vatican with the comment that the document was not yet ready for publication. The German bishops’ conference nevertheless recently published the guidelines, getting around the Vatican instruction by noting that it is not an official publication of the conference.

Pope Francis has said a variety of things, some of them contradictory, on the issue. It was he who personally approved the letter of May 25 from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith instructing the German bishops not to publish the guidelines. But then on the plane flight from Geneva on June 21, the pope said in an interview that it is a matter for individual bishops rather than the conference to treat. (He contradicted canon law in this claim.)

Now Archbishop Becker of Paderborn is moving forward in the opening given by the pope.

“At the meeting of June 27, 2018 of the presbyteral [priests’] council of the Archdiocese of Paderborn, I presented my understanding and articulated the expectation that all pastoral ministers in the Archdiocese of Paderborn intensively study the orientation guidelines and, based on them, act responsibly in their ministry,” the archbishop said.

“Tradition-uniting married couples and families are as dear to our hearts as is ecumenism,” he stated. The orientation guidelines do not ignore the question of the relationship between ecclesial community and eucharistic community, nor do they treat this question foundationally. There is “no general admission to reception of the Eucharist.” Rather, it is a matter of pastorally accompanying the faithful in this situation down a path in which, “in individual cases, reception of Communion can become possible.”


  1. The guidelines were supported by 3/4 of the German bishops, so it doesn’t seem surprising that some of them would implement them. Kasper or Koch complained at one point that some of those who voted against the guidelines already were allowing communion to Protestants in some circumstances.

    Individual bishops have been making these decisions since the new Code was issued. After the Directory on Ecumenism was issue, conferences were encouraged to issue norms. The British bishops (Ireland, Scotland, Englnnd and Wales) issued norms in 1998. Most others left it to individual bishops, presumably because they could not find a consensus.

    As Francis said recently, Canaon Law already allows intercommunion in some circumstances. The local bishop is responsible for implementing that. I think he also said the german bishops guidelines were too restrictive, not too lenient.

    Archbishop Becker has made a subtle but important change. He ask his priests to implement the guidelines, which is not exactly the same as having the bishop decide.

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