Part 6 The Eucharist in Other Churches

Chapter e69 Ecumenism and Intercommunion

Preliminary Questions



History of Ecumenism

Context Quotes

Current Legislation

Context of the Question

Four Positions Toward Intercommunion

Intercommunion: State of the Question

Pastoral Sensitivity

Celebrating Diversity

USCCB Guidelines

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Would you receive Holy Communion at a non-Catholic service?  Why?  Why not?

What is the current legislation regarding inter-communion?  What are the theological principles underlying this legislation?

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Documents from the Second Vatican Council:

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ("Sacrosanctum Concilium"), December 4, 1963: ordered an extensive revision of worship so that people would have a clearer sense of their own involvement in the Mass and other rites.

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ("Lumen Gentium"), November 21, 1964: presented the Church as a mystery, as a communion of baptized believers, as the People of God, as the Body of Christ, and as a pilgrim people moving toward fulfillment in heaven but marked on earth with "a sanctity that is real, although imperfect."

Decree on Ecumenism ("Unitatis Redintegratio"), November 21, 1964: said that ecumenism should be everyone's concern and that genuine ecumenism involves a continual personal and institutional renewal.

Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum"), November 21, 1964: stated that variety within the Church does not harm its unity and that Eastern churches should retain their own traditions.

Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions ("Nostra Aetate"), October 28, 1965: said the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions, called for an end to anti-Semitism and said any discrimination based on race, color, religion, or condition of life is foreign to the mind of Christ.

Decree on Religious Freedom ("Dignitatis Humanae"), December 7, 1965: said that religious liberty is a right found in the dignity of each person and that no one should be forced to act in a way contrary to his or her own beliefs.

Current Legislation:

ICEL. Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN 56321. 1982. 1500 pp. $45.00. ISBN 0-8146-1281-4. Section 8, "Ecumenism," pp 315 ff. (#144-167; 24 documents)

Canon Law Society of America. The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary. Paulist Press, 997 Mcarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, N.J. 07430. 1985. 1152 pp. $39.95. ISBN 0-8091-0345-1. * Canon 844.

Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Criteria for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Cooperation in Communications. USCC: Washington D.C. 1989.

Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism. USCC: Washington D.C.. 1993.

Joint Statements:

Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, NCCB, and Ecumenical Office, Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, Documents on Anglican Roman Catholic Relations 1966-1983. Washington: Office of Publishing Services, USCC, 1986. Publication No. 937.

Anglican -- Roman Catholic International Commission, The Final Report, Windsor, September 1981. Washington: Office of Publishing Services, USCC, 1982. ISBN 0-88028-014-X

World Council of Churches, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper no 111. World Council of Churches, 150 route de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland, 1982. ISBN 2-8254-0709-7.

Lutheran World Ministries and Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Anderson, Murphy, and Burges (ed), Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII. Augsburg Publishing House, 426 S. Fifth St., Box 1209, Minneapolis MN 55440.

"Issues in Southern Baptist -- Roman Catholic Dialogue," Review and expositor: a Baptist Theological Journal, 79:2 (Spring 1982).

Various Guidelines for Sacramental Sharing

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a directory in January 2000.

The Catholic Bishops' Conferences of England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland published "One Bread, One Body" in October 1998, which establishes general norms on sacramental sharing.

The Diocese of Rockhampton in Queensland published directives on eucharistic sharing in May 1988, and Brisbane did the same in 1995.

The Diocese of Rockville Center, NY issued revised guidelines in 2000.

The Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India published "Guidelines for Ecumenism" in 2000.

There are pastoral guidelines specifically for the admission of members of the Polish National Catholic Church available from the NCCB.


Ladislas Orsy, S.J. "Literary Forms in the Code" in CLSA, The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, pp 41-45.

John M. Huels. The Pastoral Companion: A Canon Law Handbook for Catholic Ministry, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1986. $15.00. ISBN 0-8199-0900-9.

John M. Huels. Disputed Questions in the Liturgy Today. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988. $4.50. ISBN 0-930467-95-7. [Partial contents: Age for Confirmation, Lay Preaching, Female Altar Servers, Concelebration, Mass Intentions, First Confession, General Absolution, etc.]

Jeffrey VanderWilt.  Communion With Non-Catholic Christians:  Risks, Challenges, and Opportunities.  Collegeville:  Liturgical Press 2003.  Pages, 229.  paper, $18.95.  ISBN: 0-8146-2895-8.  [A book review by John M. Huels found in Worship, 78:1 (January 2004) pp 95-96.]

Pastoral Articles:

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Eucharist: Sign and Source of Christian Unity" Catholic Update, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, May 2000. C0500
Text available at:

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The "believing population of the world" can be divided into roughly two groups:

God is primarily transcendent and reveals faith to creatures from the outside:


God is primarily immanent and is revealed by looking within:


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History of Ecumenism

1. Apostolic [0-399]  Not an issue? Differences among the Churches -- e.g. Matthew, John, Thomas.  Early heresies.  Fencing the table: Assassins, Pimps, Idolaters, Apostates

2. Patristic [400-799] 

3. Early Medieval [800-1199] The Great Schism

4. Medieval [1200-1299]  Papal Supremacy: One pope, one Church.

5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]

6. Reformation [1500-1699]  Faith / Works controversies

7. After Trent [1700-1899] 

8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]  Beginnings of the Ecumenical Movement. "Error has no right to exist..."



9. Vatican II [1960-1975] 

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050] 


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Context Quotes

On common worship -- "Witness to the unity of the Church generally forbids common worship; the grace to be obtained from it sometimes commends it." Decree Unitatis Redintegratio (1964) The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Church, J. Nennher, J. Dupuis, editors. New York: Alba House, 1982, p 264.)

Norms for admission of other Christians to Catholic eucharistic communion: "...[A]dmission to Catholic eucharistic communion is confined to particular cases of those Christians who have a faith in the sacrament in conformity with that of the Church, who experience a serious spiritual need for the eucharistic sustenance, who for a prolonged period are unable to have recourse to a minister of their own community, and who ask for the sacrament of their own accord ..." Paul VI, Quibus rerum circumstantis (1972), quoted in The Christian Faith, p 267.

On unity between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Churches: "It seems to me ... that the question we must ask ... is not so much whether we can re-establish full communion as whether we still have the right to remain separated." John Paul II, discourse at the Liturgy in St. George' at Phanar (1979), quoted in The Christian Faith, p 269.

On the fundamental unity of Christians: "[We Christians] are united in the hierarchy of truths in a unity which is deeper than the unity which is hindered by the controversial theological questions which divide the churches...Christians are united in a more radical sense than they are divided..." Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, New York: Crossroad, 1978, p 369.

n the problem of transubstantiation: "The sad thing today is that Catholics who no longer know what the word means often say that 'they' (i.e. other Christians) do not accept transubstantiation, and jump from there to imagining that 'they' do not believe they are receiving the Body of Christ. They do. If they reject the language, this is because it seems to explain the change in terms of a philosophy of nature and so to de-mystify it and make it mechanistic." John Coventry, London: SCM Press, 1985, p 84.

In the encyclical "On the Coming of the Third Millennium," Pope John Paul II says that he wants the Jubilee of 2000 to demonstrate that "the disciples of Christ are fully resolved to reach full unity as soon as possible in the certainty that 'nothing is impossible with God.'" (# 16) "Among the most fervent petitions which the Church makes to the Lord during this important time, ... is that unity among all Christians of the various confessions will increase until they reach full communion. I pray that the Jubilee will be a promising opportunity for fruitful cooperation in the many areas which unite us; these are unquestionably more numerous than those which divide us." (#16)

In a presentation at the CTU Trustee Dinner in Chicago during the summer of 2002 Cardinal Kasper made the following remarks: 

"Dialogue marks a fundamental shift in thinking and behavior. We can't exist for ourselves. We exist with and for the other. The other is part of my own existence."

"Be open to others. In doing so, we don't give up our identity. We must be strong in our theological identity. It does not mean reaching our lowest common denominator."

"Respectful dialogue must be the key word. It is an exchange of gifts."

"I am convinced that one day the gift of unity will take us by surprise  -- like the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is my firm conviction that we will stand in amazement that God's spirit has broken through seemingly insurmountable walls that divide us and give us new ways to be with each other and to reach full communion."

"There is no peace without justice and there is no justice without forgiveness."

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Current Legislation

Canon 842 -- #1.  One who has not received baptism cannot be validly admitted to the other sacraments...

Canon 844 --#1.  Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers with due regard for ## 2, 3, and 4 of this canon, and can. 861, #2.

 #2.  Whenever necessity requires or genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for the faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.

#3.  Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the Oriental Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed.  This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned. 

#4.  If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed.

#5.  For the cases in ##2, 3, and 4, neither the diocesan bishop nor the conference of bishops is to enact general norms except after consultation with at least the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic church or community.

Can. 908 -- It is forbidden for Catholic priests to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

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Context of the Question

1. What is our "natural" state: theism or atheism? Does belief bring answers or questions? Can we arrive at answers to our questions without God?

2. Organized religion must:  a. Safeguard the original religious experience (centralization); b. Invite others into that experience (decentralization).

3. What diversity is normal? What unity does God want? Is Christ the universal savior?

4. The "believing population of the world" can be divided into roughly two groups:  a. God is primarily transcendent and reveals faith to creatures from the outside:(Jew, Christians, Muslims); b. God is primarily immanent and is revealed by looking within:(Animism, Buddhism, Confucianism)

5. History of division -- many gods in ancient times, the God of Abraham, divisions among the Jews, divisions at the time of Jesus, (Did Jesus found a new religion?), divisions witnessed in Matthew and Luke, divisions in John... Early divisions and heresies, the Great Schism of 1054, the Great Schism of 1378-1417, the Reformation, etc.

6. The movement toward union -- Islam, Mormons, Disciples of Christ, etc. World Council of Churches, Second Vatican Council, the "World Church"

7. One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats ecumenism under the one Church showing that unity is the starting point not the divisions. "From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together." (CCC 814)

8. Evolution to World Church: In 1900, 80% of all Christians were Caucasian by race. By the year 2020, that proportion will have been reverses: 20% Caucasian, 80% all other races.

9. CCC lists 7 things that are necessary to respond to Jesus' prayer "That they may be one..." Included in this list: "Ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests." (CCC 821) [Note: for this to be born, something must die. This will occasion grief, anger, etc.]

10. The Church's mission in this new age: Reconciliation.

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Four Positions Toward Intercommunion

(Max Thurian, The One Bread, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969, pp 89-100.)

1. The Total Position (Orthodox and Roman Catholic): "Intercommunion" is meaningless because it cannot exist in the Church which is one and indivisible. Communion requires unity in doctrine and ministry. Sharing the Eucharist at the same altar with the intention of separating afterwards to return each to his or her own church is a contradiction because division remains. For these reasons, the faithful are not permitted to receive communion in other churches. -- Observations: Do the faithful of these churches, who may receive communion, always and everywhere believe in all the Church's teachings? Why then are nonmembers, who might actually be closer to the faith than many members, denied communion?

2. The Ministerial Position (Anglican): Intercommunion is possible between Churches which have a historical succession of bishops (and, thus, a valid ministry). Valid Eucharist is found only in this tradition. However, the faithful (though cautioned) are left to their own conscience. -- Observations: Is apostolic succession the only sign of a community's valid claim to Eucharist? If too much is made of historical continuity (with its origin in Jesus' ministry) is the work of the Spirit not negated?

3. The Doctrinal Position (Lutheran): The condition for intercommunion is unity of faith in the real presence. Intercommunion will be possible when the churches reach a doctrinal consensus regarding Eucharist. -- Observations: Can such unity even be said of a church's members? Isn't the road to faith a process? What epistemology is operative here? Is truth a static, univocal concept: Truth is knowable and achievable. Or is truth plural? Pursued gradually and progressively?

4. The Open Position: No one can stop a baptized person who believes in Jesus Christ from receiving communion wherever it be. Further, the Holy Supper is a means by which unity among Christians can be realized. Observations: often this position proceeds from a view that the Eucharist is purely symbolic. However it is a profound conviction of Christ's presence which drives the desire for intercommunion. Also, shouldn't intercommunion effect some change between Churches regarding unity? How can we receive Communion together while affirming that we will remain separate churches? In the tension Law/Mercy we have a necessary option for mercy. The pain of separation is to be purposeful pain: e.g. tooth ache moves you to go to the dentist.

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Intercommunion: State of the Question

(Inter-communion, an expose given January 16, 1973 by M. L'abbe Jean-Pierre van Deth, delegate for ecumenical questions, Diocese of Paris, Director of the Higher Institute of Ecumenical Studies, Catholic Institute, Paris.)

1. We must be aware of the doctrine and discipline of the other members of the dialogue; we must have a certain pre-sympathy for their position.

2. It is difficult to enlarge this type of dialogue to a world-wide dimension. Episcopalians and Roman Catholics in the USA may agree on things that Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Ireland may not agree on.

3. A joint statement does not necessarily imply a change in discipline. However, we must be careful that we are not merely concerned with words and refuse to act.

4. Underlying issues

a. the meaning of Church
b. the idea of unity
c. the meaning of grace
d. the theology of ministry

5. Real progress has been made on

a. real presence
b. permanence of presence
c. the gift of the eucharist and the action of the Holy Spirit
d. the mode of the presence
e. the one, unique sacrifice of Christ
f.  memorial
g. the sacrifice of the Church
h. the minister of the eucharist

6. Conclusions

a. the question is urgent

i. not merely "nice"
ii. not just more work
iii. Christ's dying breath
iv. Evangelization / Missions
v. Ecumenical marriages

b. suffering caused by the problem

i. marriage
ii. example to children, etc.

c. respect due to the eucharist

d. respect due other communities

7. Six steps

a. Limited admission or open communion limited to certain categories
b. General admission to communion
c. Reciprocal admission
d. Inter-celebration
e. Common celebration -- mutual recognition of ministries

Full communion

8. Current situation

a. Pre Vatican II -- error has no rights
b. Modernism
c. Document on Religious Liberty
d. Experience of the popes

i.  John XXIII
ii.  John-Paul

e.  Other countries

i.  TOB

f.  Canon Law 1983

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Pastoral Sensitivity

We must be in touch with our personal background. Sometimes those who have come to full communion with the Roman Church view ecumenism differently than cradle Catholics. Ecumenism can be seen as making something easy that they themselves achieved only at great personal expense.

Weddings pose a special problem.

1. Do not posit signs of disunity when you are celebrating a sacrament of unity.

a. If both parties are not going to participate in the eucharist, it is better not to celebrate eucharist.

On the occasion of weddings, should the pastor announce
  "No one can come to communion but Catholics."
  "On this occasion everyone can come to communion."

Eucharistic Community -- Family, the Domestic Church (John Paul II)

1. How many parents in your parish are in ecumenical marriages?

2. How many parents in your parish are divorced?

3. How many parents in your parish can share Communion with their children?

Baptized Christians preparing for Full Communion

1. Often advised to abstain during final preparation period.



As you read one another's essays in response to this assignment, distinguish carefully between three distinct judgments: affiliation, holiness, belief.


First distinction: Church Affiliation.


To which ecclesial community does the person belong? Or to put the matter bluntly, in whose baptismal book is the event recorded? If you are Roman Catholic your baptism is recorded in a Roman Catholic baptismal record.


Perhaps you were baptized Methodist, married a Roman Catholic, and go to Catholic Mass every Sunday. But this does not make you a Roman Catholic. To become one you would need an official ceremony–a record of which would be recorded in the Catholic baptismal register. A person's domination is a verifiable fact. Anyone can go and “look it up.”


This week's assignment asked the question: “Why is it that only those persons whose baptism is registered in the Catholic baptismal record are invited to receive the Eucharist at Catholic Mass?



Second distinction: Holiness.


If by “holiness” we mean some form of “living like Christ wants us to live”, it seems (although Jesus repeatedly warns us not to judge people in this regard) that some people are holier than others. Indeed, there is a large range, a continuum of “holiness” ranging from canonized saints on one end of the spectrum to really terrible people who have completely cut themselves off from God at the other end of the spectrum.


This “variation in holiness” seems to exist across denominational lines. There seem to be holy Catholics and sinful Catholics just as there seem to be holy Protestants and sinful Protestants.


Regarding “holiness” and reception of Eucharist church law states:


Can. 912 Any baptized person who is not forbidden by law may and must be admitted to holy communion.


Can. 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.


Can. 916 Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess.


This week's assignment is not directed towards this second distinction, “holiness”. Holiness is not externally verifiable. When someone comes to Holy Communion, the minister is not to judge on their own authority whether that person is sufficiently holy to receive the sacrament. No Church statement says that non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist because non-Catholics are not sufficiently holy.



Third distinction: Belief in the Real Presence.


Anyone can examine Church documents and learn the respective Church's official belief regarding the Eucharist, or the Lord's Table, or Holy Communion, or the Divine Liturgy. There are various sources that a Roman Catholic could consult, for example, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


There are similar sources for each of our sister Churches. For example, when I teach the course on the Eucharist I have everyone read “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry”, the Faith and Order paper No. 111 of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1982. [Copyright 1982, World Council of Churches, ISBN 2-8254-0709-7, 30th printing, 1996] It can be viewed and ordered from See my website at, Eucharist and Ministry


Three issues come to mind with regard to “belief”: 1) not everyone believes what their denomination teaches; 2) there is no way to administer a “test” regarding their belief when someone approaches the Eucharistic table; 3) it seems that very few people in any one Church have an accurate understanding of what others believe. [For example I find that many Roman Catholics are astounded when they read “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” of the World Council of Churches.]


To say that “Catholics believe in the Real Presence, and Protestants don't” perhaps conceals more truth than it reveals. As Jay Paradis in his essay stated: “A recent survey indicates that as many as 45% of all U.S. Catholics are unaware of this teaching [e.g. the presence of Christ in the Eucharist]. There are many studies in this regard. Jay, in his footnote, sites a very fine recent study: (Note that about as many Lutherans believe in the real presence as do Catholics!)


This week's assignment is not directed towards this third distinction, “belief ”. Belief is not externally verifiable. When someone comes to Holy Communion, the minister is not to judge on their own authority whether that person has sufficient belief in the Real Presence. No Church statement says that non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist because non-Catholics to not believe in the Real Presence.


(Note that the context of the statement of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29 “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” makes it clear that he is speaking of those who partake of the Eucharist without recognizing that the poor and the marginal are Christ's Body. St. Paul is not speaking about belief in transubstation. See my remarks: "Eucharist as Initiation"–which I have posted in this discussion forum.)


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Celebrating Diversity

Litany of the Churches: (Rev. Wm. Arbaugh, Father Dick Stohr, the Rev. LaVern Brassard, in "Celebration of Unity," week of prayer for Christian unity, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, January 28, 1979, Greater Vancouver Association of Churches.) Let us give thanks for the gifts and graces of each member of the Christian family:

For the Churches of the Anglican Communion: their reverent worship, their Catholic heritage and Protestant conscience, their ecumenical zeal and desire to be used as a house of reconciliation. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the Baptist Churches: their stress on regeneration, missionary zeal, and the conscious relation of the mature soul to its Lord. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): their emphasis upon individual freedom and their dedication to the unity of the Church through a common commitment to Christ as God's complete self-disclosure. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the United Church of Christ: their concern for the rightful independence of the soul and of the group. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the Orthodox Church: their sense of the reality of Christ's continuing presence through their Divine Liturgies, and their fellowship in the Trinitarian Mystery in faith, in Christ's Eucharistic sacrifice, and in charitable service. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the Lutheran Church: their devotion to the grace of the Triune God received by faith in Christ and made known through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and their contribution through theology, worship, and music. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the United Methodist Church: their awakening the consciences of Christians to social responsibilities and their emphasis upon the witness of experience and the fruits of the disciplined life. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the Presbyterian and Reform Churches: their reverence for the sovereignty of God and their confidence in God's faithfulness to the covenant; and their sense of moral law as it expresses itself in constitutional government. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For the Roman Catholic Church: their traditions, disciplines, and worship, rich with religious passion of the centuries; and their noble company of believers. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

For all other Christian bodies: their proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation through humble repentance; their preaching of the Word of God and inspiration of their members for conscientious Christian Living. All: We thank you, O Lord, and bless your holy name.

O God, grant to all these families of your people that as the com to sit down in your kingdom, each my lay at your feet that special grace and excellence with which you in times past have endowed it, and that we may all glorify you in all the world. All: Amen.

* * * * *

Denominational: (Anonymous. Copied from St. Peter's Newsletter.)
During an ecumenical gathering someone rushed in and shouted: "The building is on fire!"
The Methodists gathered in a corner and prayed.
The Baptists cried: "Where's the water?"
The Christian Scientists agreed among themselves that there was no fire.
The Fundamentalists shouted: "It's the vengeance of the Lord!"
The Lutherans posted a notice on the door declaring that the fire was evil.
The Quakers quietly praised God for the blessings that fire brings.
The Catholics took up a second collection.
The Presbyterians appointed a chairperson who was to appoint a committee to look into the matter.
The Congregationalists and the Southern Baptists shouted: "You're all on your own!"
The Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out in grand style.

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USCCB Guidelines

[In 1966 the USCCB directed that the following statement be printed in hymnals and worship aids]

For Catholics As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly dis- posed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (Code of Canon Law, canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For our fellow Christians We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (John 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the; directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 # 4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 # 3).

For those not receiving Holy Communion All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

Copyright 1996 United States Catholic Conference. All rites reserved.

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To Think About

1.  How would you explain the church's position regarding inter-communion to a non-Christian who might wonder why the various Christian Churches don't worship together?

2.  Is a totally unified Church possible within our lifetime? If not, under what conditions (if any) do you believe intercommunion is possible?

3.  In your opinion, which doctrinal issues are serious enough to prevent intercommunion (for example: papal primacy? transubstantiation? male only clergy? etc.

4.  If you advocate intercommunion without restrictions, are there any circumstances in which you could envision a necessity to not worship with another Church?

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at