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Eucharistic Sharing for Interchurch Families
Some applications of the Code (1983) and the Directory (1993)

The French Episcopal Conference, through their Commission for Christian Unity, 1983 
(following the Code, which gives one example of a circumstance of need: danger of death)

Circumstances of need:

Where there is a real need, a proven spiritual desire
deep and continuing bonds of fraternal communion with Catholics
(as lived in certain interchurch families and some long-lasting ecumenical groups)

The conditions:

unambiguous faith in the sacrificial dimension of the eucharist,

the real presence, and
the relationship between eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion

an active commitment in the service of the unity which God wills

Who decides?

decisions taken locally to be communicated to the bishop or his ecumenical officer.

The Archbishop of Brisbane: Pastoral Guidelines, 1995 
(following the Directory, which specifically identifies those who share the sacraments of baptism and marriage as in circumstances of possible need)

The spiritual need (where this is for occasional admission):

examples: partner at nuptial mass, parent at baptism, confirmation, 1st communion;
family at funeral
with each case considered on its merit

The spiritual need, (where this is for regular admission):

where each partner lives devotedly within the traditions of his/her church,
making a significant contribution to the ecumenical movement
spouses can experience serious spiritual need each time they are with the family at mass


a request without any kind of pressure
Catholic belief in the eucharist
appropriate dispositions

Who decides? (when the need is for occasional admission)

the presiding priest asks a few simple questions to see if these conditions are met

Who decides? (when the need is for regular admission)

requests should go through the parish priest to the Archbishop or auxiliary bishops

The German Episcopal Conference through their Ecumenical Commission, 1997
(repeated in Austria by the Archbishop of Vienna for his archdiocese, 1997)

The spiritual need:

separation at the Lord's table:
may lead to serious risk to spiritual life and faith of one or both partners
may endanger the integrity of the bond created in life and faith through marriage
may lead to indifference to the sacrament and distancing from family worship and so from life in the Church


to ask of own accord
to be rightly disposed
to manifest Catholic faith in the eucharist - that the crucified and risen Christ
gives himself to us in person in the eucharist as Giver and Gift in bread and wine
and so builds up his Church.
(Commitment to Christ calls also for commitment to his Church)

Who decides?

the need is to be ascertained in pastoral dialogue by the minister with the couple
in some cases "full sharing in the eucharist" will be granted to the non-Catholic partner

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference: Directory on Ecumenism, 1998

The spiritual need

since their need is unique (baptismal unity in Christ sealed by sacramental marriage)
both may experience a real need whenever they are together at a eucharistic celebration


the initiative is to come from the person who desires communion
the condition of inability to receive communion from his/her own minister is fulfilled when spouses in a mixed marriage attend a eucharistic celebration together
manifest Catholic faith in the eucharist: this requires unity in the substance of the faith (e.g. in the light of the ARCIC agreement on the eucharist members of the Anglican Communion may be presumed to share the essentials of eucharistic faith with us)
proper dispositions for a fruitful reception

Who decides? (where attendance at mass together is infrequent)

both may receive if it is the spontaneous desire of the non-Catholic partner to do so
(the priest does not have to ask the bishop)

Who decides? (where attendance at mass together is regular)

the non-Catholic partner approaches the Bishop through the parish priest for permission to receive communion every time he/she attends mass with a spouse

(It is assumed that the non-Catholic lives devotedly within his/her tradition. Cases in which the only church the non-Catholic partner attends is the Catholic church are to be referred to the Bishop through the parish priest.)



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