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Mixed response in Germany to Papal encyclical on Eucharist

Pope John Paul II's recent encyclical on the Eucharist has drawn mixed responses in Germany, where two self-styled Catholic reform groups planned a joint Communion service.

The German bishops said in a statement on Monday that they welcome the encyclical, noting that the pope spoke positively about ecumenical activity and described the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist "without any shrillness."

Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the bishops' conference, said the pope took a "very reserved" position on joint Communion "so long as a real union between the churches has not been reached."

In the encyclical - Ecclesia de Eucharistia - Pope John Paul said regular eucharistic sharing with other Christians is a hope to be prayed for and a goal to work toward, but it is not a step on the way toward Christian unity.

The German Protestant Church Council, an umbrella organisation uniting Lutheran and Reformed churches, issued a statement regretting the encyclical. It said the Catholic teachings presented in the encyclical were not new, but were presented "in a brusque manner".

Catholic News Service

Australian bishops welcome Papal Encyclical on Eucharist (22/4/03)
Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia of His Holiness Pope John Paul II (full text, Vatican website)
Encyclical reflects pope's own eucharistic devotion, bishop says (Catholic News Service)
Eucharist greatest gift Christ gave church, pope says in encyclical (Catholic News Service)
Pope's encyclical on Eucharist: Summary/analysis (Catholic World News)

2 May 2003