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German Cardinal explains why non-Catholics can't receive Communion

Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne has said that intercommunion will be a sign that Christian unity has been achieved, and there's no place for believing that in the mean time, the practice itself might foster unity between churches.

He stressed that the decision not to allow non-Catholics to receive Communion is not a whim of the Pope or the bishops.

"In the first place, in the realm of the ecumenical dialogue we must really remove all the differences that separate us," the cardinal said. "Only afterward we will be able to give ourselves the gift of the special Eucharistic Communion."

The cardinal expressed the position of the Church, following last week's publication on his archdiocesan website of a letter requestion the "introduction of Communion open to non-Catholics".

The letter had contested the writer's assertion that intercommunion can lead to unity.

Cardinal Meisner said he was gratified by the author's "ecumenical commitment and desire for Christian unity". But He was "surprised" at the writer's "visible lack of knowledge of the Catholic faith".

"The statements of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland on the understanding of Communion have contributed to this disorientation, in which they request that Catholics allow Communion for faithful of the Reformation," the cardinal said.

The cardinal also mentions the confusion created by two priests who distributed Communion to non-Catholics during a Mass at the Ecumenical Ecclesial Days ("Íkumenischer Kirchentag"), held in Berlin last May.

Cardinal Meisner on Why Non-Catholics Cannot Receive Communion (Zenit 17/2/04)

Archdiocese of Cologne

19 Feb 2004