Protestants who want to receive Holy Communion should become Catholics, Cardinal Francis Arinze said this week, and added that “it is rather serious” to presume marriage can be dissolved for the purpose of receiving Communion.
In an interview this week at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, the cardinal emphatically objected to the idea of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, as implied in Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He said went on to say Holy Communion cannot be shared with Protestant spouses, like friends sharing beer or cake.
Cardinal Arinze said it’s important to 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,” he said. “We can share those with our friends.”
“It isn’t just that we wish one another well,” the cardinal continued. “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.”
In a May 23 interview with Catholic News Service, the Nigerian cardinal also stressed the importance of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and worthiness for its reception.
“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.’”
He also explained that true communion is a necessary component for receiving the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass.
“The Eucharistic celebration of the Mass is the celebration of the faith community,” said Cardinal Arinze, “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,” he said. “Anybody who is not a member of that community does not fit in at all.”
The cardinal then added that if Protestants wished to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches then they should become Catholics.
“Come, be received into the Church,” he said, “and then you can receive Holy Communion seven times a week. Otherwise, no.”
Cardinal Arinze was at Buckfast Abbey for a May 24 Mass commemorating the millennium year of Buckfast’s founding in 1018. It was one of many English monasteries suppressed by King Henry VIII during the Protestant Reformation and then rebuilt a century ago.
The cardinal made his remarks in the middle of controversy over a German Bishops’ Conference push for intercommunion for Protestant spouses of Catholics and also continued contention over the pope’s 2016 document.
Some members of the German Bishops’ Conference propose allowing Protestants to receive Communion in some circumstances. While the effort is championed by some,most notably conference president Cardinal Reinhard Marx, seven bishops oppose the move and asked the Vatican to intervene. Pope Francis referred the matter backto the German bishops, with the direction to come to a “unanimous” decision at the conference level.
Discord over Amoris Laetitia persists worldwide two years after the document’s promulgation, with some episcopates saying that since Church teaching on marriage and the Eucharist cannot be changed, Amoris Laetitia cannot open the door to Communion for Catholics in non-marital unions, and others interpreting Amoris Laetitia as a green light to allow Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
The Nigerian cardinal, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments under Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who is known for candor in upholding orthodoxy, shot down that interpretation.
“If a person is divorced and remarried (without an annulment) then there is a problem,” he stated, saying Jesus taught that this was adultery.
No one can usurp Christ’s teaching or His mercy, Cardinal Arinze said.
“It is not we who made that,” he said. “It is Christ who said it.”
“We cannot be more merciful than Christ,” he added. “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,” continued Cardinal Arinze. “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.”