“The doors are open,” said Sternberg, who is also co-president of the German Church’s controversial “Synodal Way,” together with Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German Catholic bishops’ conference.
The event has already raised alarm at the Vatican, which objected to a proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” between Catholics and Protestants last September.
The proposal was made by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (known by its German initials, ÖAK) in a 2019 document entitled “Together at the Lord’s Table.”
The ÖAK document raised concerns at the Vatican, prompting an intervention by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
In a four-page critique and letter to Bätzing, the doctrinal congregation emphasized that significant differences in understanding of the Eucharist and ministry remained between Protestants and Catholics.
“The doctrinal differences are still so important that they currently rule out reciprocal participation in the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist,” it said.
“The document cannot therefore serve as a guide for an individual decision of conscience about approaching the Eucharist.”
The CDF cautioned against any steps towards intercommunion between Catholics and members of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), an organization representing 20 Protestant groups.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has also expressed serious misgivings about the “Eucharistic meal fellowship” proposal.
Earlier this month, Bätzing wrote to priests in Limburg diocese, which also includes the city of Frankfurt, where the ÖKT will take place.
He said in a March 1 letter to clergy that they could give Holy Communion to non-Catholic individuals if they requested it after examining their consciences.
In the four-page letter, he told priests that there could, however, be “no general, inter-denominational reception of the Eucharist” or “new forms of Eucharistic celebration.”
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He wrote: “The prerequisite for a worthy reception of the Eucharistic gifts, for both Catholics and non-Catholics, is the examination of one’s conscience.”