Bätzing has repeatedly expressed qualified support for intercommunion with Protestants, telling journalists in February 2021 that it was necessary to respect the “personal decision of conscience” of those seeking to receive Communion.
Bätzing also led an ecumenical study group that published the 2019 document “Together at the Lord’s Table,” proposing a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” between Catholics and Protestants.
The situation triggered a response by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in September 2020.
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 toward intercommunion between Catholics and members of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).
Following the Vatican intervention, Bätzing reaffirmed his view that intercommunion with Protestants should be possible.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Swiss president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also expressed serious misgivings about the “Eucharistic meal fellowship” proposal.
There was little sign of such a fellowship being wilfully orchestrated in Stuttgart, CNA Deutsch reported, quoting local media as saying that there was some confusion about who could receive Communion, with one Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion telling a Protestant visitor: “I don’t know. I only know that this is the Body of Christ.”
Despite the controversies, a survey showed that most Catholics are not interested in the event, CNA Deutsch reported. Attendance numbers are dwindling, while the costs are extensive, with the Stuttgart event expected to cost more than 10 million euros (around $11 million).
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