Cardinal says intercommunion not an issue in Hungary ahead of International Eucharistic Congress

Cardinal Peter Erdo at the Holy See Press Office during a briefing on the Synod on the Family on Oct 5 2015 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 10 5 15 Cardinal Péter Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest, pictured at the Vatican on Oct. 5, 2015. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Unlike in Germany, there is little demand for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants in Hungary, the cardinal hosting this year’s International Eucharistic Congress has said.

Cardinal Péter Erdő made the comment in an interview with the German monthly magazine Herder Korrespondenz after a major ecumenical event in Frankfurt culminated with the Catholic and Protestant leaders of the initiative publicly receiving communion in each others’ churches.

“On the part of the Reformed Church and the Orthodox, there is no desire in Hungary for an intercommunion that precedes the full unity of the Church,” said the cardinal, according to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

He added: “We perceive such a tendency on the part of some Lutheran Christians, but it is rather sporadic.”

The archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest is hosting the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in the Hungarian capital on Sept. 5-12.

At the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt on May 15, Bettina Limperg, the event’s Lutheran co-president, received Holy Communion in a Catholic church.

Thomas Sternberg, fellow co-president and head of the influential lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), participated in a Lord’s Supper celebration at a Protestant church.

Limperg received Communion from Fr. Johannes zu Eltz, Frankfurt’s Catholic dean, who offered an apology to Protestants at the beginning of a Mass in Frankfurt Cathedral.

He asked forgiveness for the times that they had encountered arrogance and an insistence on boundaries on the Catholic side, reported CNA Deutsch.

“I ask for forgiveness for this and thank you for your patience,” he said.

In the run-up to the May 13-16 event, Rome expressed concerns that the congress might promote a controversial proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” between Catholics and Protestants.

The proposal was made by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in a 2019 document entitled “Together at the Lord’s Table.”

The ÖAK adopted the text under the co-chairmanship of Bishop Georg Bätzing, now chairman of the German bishops’ conference, and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein.

The ÖAK document prompted an intervention by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in September 2020.

In a four-page critique and a letter to Bätzing, the doctrinal congregation emphasized that significant differences in understanding of the Eucharist and ministry remain between Protestants and Catholics.

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.

Following the Vatican’s intervention, Bätzing repeatedly ruled out general intercommunion, while saying that he respects the “personal decision of conscience” of individual Protestants to receive Communion in Catholic churches.

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The International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It will open this September with a 1,000-strong choir and a “vast” number of First Communions.

The event’s program lists cardinals from five continents as leaders of the congress’ morning prayers, catechesis, testimonies, and workshops.

Scheduled speakers include Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, retired Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and Canadian Cardinal Gérald Lacroix.

The events will build towards the weekend of Sept. 11-12, the final two days of the congress.

On the Saturday, Erdő will celebrate Mass in Kossuth Square, home to the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building, followed by a candlelight procession to Heroes’ Square.

The 68-year-old cardinal told CNA in February that the congress would be a sign of hope amid the pandemic.

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“I am convinced that the International Eucharistic Congress, which was postponed by the decision of the Holy Father until Sept. 5-12, 2021, after the passing of the most difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a great sign of hope for the Catholics all around the world,” he said.

Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate the closing Mass in Heroes’ Square on Sept. 12.