BUCKFASTLEIGH, England (CNS) -- Holy
Communion is exclusively for Catholics in a state of grace and not something to
be shared between friends like beer or cake, said a
former senior adviser to two popes.
Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze
said any moves to give greater access to Communion to divorced and remarried
Catholics and to non-Catholic spouses of Catholics represented "serious"
challenges to the teaching of the church on the Eucharist.
In a May 23 interview with
Catholic News Service, he implicitly objected to interpretations of Pope Francis'
2016 apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" that would permit
divorced and remarried Catholics who had not received an annulment to receive Communion
in certain circumstances.
"If a person is divorced
and remarried (without the first marriage being annulled) then there is a
problem," said Cardinal Arinze, adding that Jesus taught that their
arrangements constituted adultery.
"It is not we who made that
(teaching)," said the cardinal, 85, who served as prefect of the
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments under St. John Paul II and
now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. "It is Christ who said it."
"We cannot be more merciful
than Christ," he continued. "If any of us says he has permission from
Christ to change one of the major points Christ gave us in the Gospel, we would
like to see that permission and also the signature."
"You can see that it is not
possible," he said. "Not even if all of the bishops agree, it doesn't
become so. It is rather serious, because it touches the faith on the holy
Eucharist and also that marriage cannot be dissolved between Christians who
have lived together and no human power can dissolve it. It is rather serious."
In his interview at Buckfast
Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, Cardinal Arinze also said that sharing Communion
with Protestant spouses was not an issue of hospitality.
He said that while he wished
other Christians well it was important understand that "the holy Eucharist
is not our private possession which we can share with our friends."
"Our tea is such and also
our bottle of beer. We can share those with our friends," Cardinal Arinze
"It isn't just that we wish
one another well. After Mass you can go to the refectory and have a cup of tea
and even a glass of beer and a bit of cake. That's OK. But the Mass is not
like that," he added.
"It is very important to
look at the doctrine," he said. "The eucharistic celebration of the
Mass is not an ecumenical service. It is not a gathering of those who believe
in Christ and who invent a prayer for the occasion, it is a celebration of the
mysteries of Christ who died for us on the cross, who made bread into his body
and wine into his blood and told the apostles 'do this in memory of me.'
celebration of the Mass is the celebration of the faith community -- those who
believe in Christ, they are communicating in the faith, and in the sacraments,
and in ecclesiastical communion ... ecclesiastical unity with their pastor,
their bishop and the pope. It is the community which celebrates the holy
Eucharist. Anybody who is not a member of that community does not fit in at
all," he said.
He said if Protestants wished to
receive holy Communion in Catholic churches then they should become Catholics.
"Come, be received into the
church, and then you can receive holy Communion seven times a week. Otherwise
no," said Cardinal Arinze.
The cardinal flew into England
from Rome May 22 to attend a May 24 Mass in celebration of the millennium year
of the founding of Buckfast in 1018. The abbey was dissolved by King Henry
VIII during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, but it was rebuilt
a century ago on the exact site.
comments were made amid a controversy over the German bishops' pastoral handbook
titled, "Walking with Christ -- In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages
and Common Participation in the Eucharist."
document has divided the German bishops and seven of them, including a
cardinal, have requested the intervention of the Vatican's Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and
the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Francis has invited leaders of the German bishops' conference and some of the
bishops opposed to the guidelines to travel to the Vatican for a discussion
with officials from the three offices.
of the guidelines has not been made public, but it is widely assumed to foresee
situations in which a Lutheran married to a Catholic and attending Mass with
the spouse could receive Communion regularly.
follows ongoing confusion within the church about what scope "Amoris
Laetitia" allows concerning Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics
whose previous marriage was not annulled.
bishops' conferences, such as those of Germany and Malta, have interpreted the
papal exhortation liberally, while others insist that church teaching and
practice remains unchanged and unchangeable.
Francis has declined to issue a clarification on the contentious points of the
document and has effectively ignored a dubia, or list of questions, submitted
in 2016 by four cardinals, two of whom are now deceased.