Published 12 October 2005 on

Coverage of Bishops Synod on the Eucharist Report #10: Despite frank talk, few breakthroughs expected from synod

Things largely held to form, as the two most striking references to the issue came from representatives of the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

Anglican Bishop John Hind of Chichester, England, first raised the issue.

"When is it appropriate to share Holy Communion? How should we interpret the public giving of Communion to the Protestant Frère Roger Schutz?" Hind asked in his prepared text, though a briefer told reporters he cut out portions and may not have spoken these words.

The reference was to the fact that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger administered communion to Schutz, a Swiss Protestant and founder of the legendary French ecumenical community of Taizé, at the April 8 funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II. Some saw the act as a signal of openness from Ratzinger on the inter-communion question.

Hind called for "criteria of mutual recognition" regarding the Eucharist.

A much more direct challenge came from Emeritus Bishop Per Lønning of the Lutheran Church of Norway, who recounted some of his experiences of worshipping with Catholics over the years.

In 1971, he said, he was in Belgium, and a young Catholic priest asked him if he would like to receive Communion. He turned to the Catholic bishop present and said he didn't want to do anything contrary to the rules, so the bishop himself also refrained from Communion, and at the end the two men delivered a benediction together.

In 1975 at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota, he learned that Protestant students had been coming forward for Communion for about 10 years at Catholic Mass, without being invited. "Who are we to censor this work of the Holy Spirit?\u201d one Benedictine told him. A week later, he was at a Lutheran campus in the United States, where a Catholic chaplain told him that some of his students were attending a Protestant Eucharist. The chaplain said his one regret was that he could not join them.

Given that experience, Lønning said, he is "rather sad" about the language in paragraphs 86 and 87 of the Instrumentum Laboris for the synod, which largely repeats existing prohibitions.

"I know they will make many of my Catholic friends sad: bishops, professors, monastic leaders," Lønning said. "Conclusions are presented and logically championed with no reference to what has been and is going on in your own church. No attention is paid to opinions not less biblically founded than the one triumphant. Will it forward the actual ecumenical progress in case this is published as the official voice of the Roman Catholic church?

"If we really believe the presence of Christ the Savior to be linked with the wonder of Holy Communion, how can we remain with our divided altars, and not hear the harsh question of the apostle as directed to us: "Has Christ been divided?' "