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From the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, 1993


97. While by baptism a person is incorporated into Christ and his Church, this is on, done in practice in a given Church or ecclesial Community. Baptism, therefore, may not be conferred jointly by two ministers belonging to different Churches or ecclesial Communities. Moreover, according to Catholic liturgical and theological tradition, baptism is celebrated by just one celebrant. For pastoral reasons, in particular circumstances the local Ordinary may sometimes permit, however, that a minister of another Church or ecclesial Community take part in the celebration by reading a lesson, offering a prayer, etc. Reciprocity is possible only if a baptism celebrated in another Community does not conflict with Catholic principles or discipline.


What seems to be excluded here is the joint pouring of water and saying of the baptismal formula by two ministers. (We know of this occurring, but only on very rare occasions.) The rest of the service can be shared by ministers of two communities.

This is so whether the baptism takes place in the Catholic Church or in the church of the other partner. In Britain a large number of churches (including the Roman Catholic Church) have agreed on the mutual recognition of baptism ­ these churches are listed on the reverse of the Common Certificate of Baptism, so it is certainly recognised that baptism celebrated in them "does not conflict with Catholic principles or discipline"

Sometimes there are problems in interchurch families when the first child is baptised in the Catholic Church with the participation of the minister of the other partner, and the couple foresee no difficulty about reversing the process for their second child. There have however been cases where the Catholic priest then refuses to take part in a baptism celebrated in another church. The Directory clearly seems to allow him to do so.

98. It is the Catholic understanding that godparents, in a liturgical and canonical sense, should themselves be members of the Church or ecclesial Community in which the baptism is being celebrated. They do not merely undertake a responsibility for the Christian education of the person being baptized as a relation or friend; they are also there as representatives of a community of faith, standing as guarantees of the candidate's faith and desire for ecclesial communion.

However, based on the common baptism and because of ties of blood or friendship, a baptized person who belongs to another ecclesial Community may be admitted as a witness to the baptism, but only together with a Catholic godparent. A Catholic may do the same for a person being baptized in another ecclesial Community.


Many interchurch parents want godparents for their children who represent both communities. The distinction made here between a godparent and a witness is a technical one which need not worry them unduly.

Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England



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