Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück said in an interview with Evangelical Press Service (Evangelischer Pressedienst, EPD) that it is “not utopian” to think that there could be shared Communion between Catholics and Protestants in 2017.
Within the framework of the “ecumenical jubilee of the Reformation” of Martin Luther, who published his 95 theses against the Church in 1517, Bishop Bode is an advocate of a “solution on our side for marriages with partners from different confessions.”
According to the EPD, many Protestants already receive Communion in the Catholic Church with their partners. “We have to give a basis to that which is already in practice,” Bode said.
“In the year of commemoration of the Reformation, it would make sense to deal with how the Church of the future could look,” continued Bode, envisioning a unified Catholic and Protestant Church. “It would be too simplistic if both confessions see in ecumenism only the way as the goal.”
For Bode, the understanding of Communion in Catholic teaching is changeable in order to reach common ground for intercommunion.
Holy Communion is a sacrament in the Catholic Church that can only be received by Catholics in a state of grace. Catholics believe that bread and wine are truly changed into the body and blood of Christ. Whereas for Lutherans in Germany and elsewhere and in other Protestant denominations, communion is merely a commemorative breaking of the bread in order to recall Christ’s action.
Intercommunion for non-Catholics without acceptance of Catholic teaching on the real presence and transubstantiation (CCC, 1376) has been a goal for liberal bishops of Germany and elsewhere. The occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden last fall brought more attention to the issue.
Previously, Bishop Bode showed notable sympathy not only for homosexual couples but also for the admittance of “remarried” couples to Holy Communion. He proposed that pastors not tell cohabiting couples that they are living in a state of sin since, he claimed, it would not help them towards choosing to enter the Sacrament of Marriage. And his calls for a “private blessing” of gay unions also resounded during the Synod for the Family in which he participated.
Some Vatican insiders speculate that an announcement regarding intercommunion could come then.
In commemoration of the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant revolt known as the Reformation, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity is promoting a document encouraging Catholics “to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognizing him as a ‘witness to the gospel.’"