In a written statement provided to CNA Deutsch, the Archdiocese of Cologne stated that the letter, dated March 22, 2018, seeks clarification as to whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather, "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.
"From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue," the April 4 statement explained.
The request for clarification from Rome follows a February announcement that the German bishops' conference will publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist."
The announcement was made "after intensive debate" at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops' conference, held Feb. 19 - 22.
It would appear that the debate did not achieve clarity for the signatories, namely Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, as well as Bishops Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt, Stefan Oster of Passau and Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg - and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz.
Notably, five of the seven bishops are based in Bavaria – where Cardinal Marx is Archbishop of Munich and Freising.