Vatican’s rules on eucharistic sharing could be further relaxed

Posted Oct 7, 2013

[Church of Ireland Gazette] The Roman Catholic co-chair of the Third Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) has expressed his personal view that, seeing how in 1993 certain relaxations were made in the Vatican’s rules on eucharistic sharing, further relaxation is possible.

Speaking last week to the Gazette editor following a joint session of the National Advisers’ Committee on Ecumenism of the Irish (Roman Catholic) Episcopal Conference and representatives of the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, the Most Rev. Bernard Longley — Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and ARCIC III co-chair — referred to the changes in “specified circumstances” set out in the 1993 Ecumenism Directory.

He commented, “Given that that represents a change, and a very significant shift away from the impossibility to the limited possibility, then I could imagine and foresee one of the fruits of our ecumenical engagement as moving towards a deeper understanding of communion and a deeper sharing, a deeper communion between our churches which perhaps would lead to reconsideration of some of the circumstances.”

Asked if he felt healing on the issue would indeed come, the archbishop said, “I know that that will be the case,” and described the “pain” of division at the Eucharist as “a spur” towards resolving the issue.

However, he also pointed to how, over the past several decades, “further challenges — obstacles, if you like — in the way of that have been placed before us and they also have their part to play in what holds us back from sharing the Eucharist together.” He instanced differences over the recognition of clerical orders.

Affirming that a further relaxation in the Vatican’s regulations “could happen,” the archbishop added, however, that he “wouldn’t like to predict the rate or the pace of change towards that.”

Longley said that the coming together of members within ARCIC III was itself “an experience of communion”, adding, “Because of the balance, I think, of pastors, church leaders and theologians in their various fields, there is a real respect for the gifts of each other and there has been a real sense in which we’ve been able to exchange those gifts and receive from one another.”

To hear Archbishop Longley being inteviewed by the editor, visit (Inteview 46)


Comments (12)

  1. Michael Goldsmith says:

    What ever happened to the belief that “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us” ? and that “Christ died to sin once, for all”, not just “for the politically correct”! The Episcopal teaching and belief is that of a RREAL PRESENCE in the Eucharist. The differences between the two Churches is political not sacramental. Just as Pope francis has said he does not believe in a “Catholic God”; then how could the “real presence” of the true Christ in the Eucharist be limited only to those who agree with the politicians of Rome?

    1. Joseph F Foster says:

      One problem is that The episcopal church current Prayer Book has two different versions of the Nicene Creed, one right after the other, and a choice of which to use. But they are not identical and one is closer to the original Greek and the orthodox version than the other. In fact, the other was a deliberate mistranslation, although those who put it into the BCP may have been unaware of that.

    2. Fr. John H. Shumaker says:

      You made a big mistake in your quotation of the “Pascha Nostrum” in the Holy Eucharist. Both Rite I and Rite II state “Christ our Passover IS sacrifice for us”…..not a was.

      Fr. John H. Shumaker

    3. Tom Vaughn says:

      There is a vast difference between the belief in the Real Presence in the Anglican Communion and in the Catholic belief in transubstantiation of the elements into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. First, there is no real definition or clarity about what “Real Presence” actually means, and, as a former Episcopalian, I can say that no one was ever able to tell me what it really meant. Like many Protestant beliefs, each person has to make up his own mind about what he believes it to mean. Article XVIII of the Articles of Religion explicitly denies transubstantiation. There are, of course, many other serious differences in belief and practice between Catholicism and Anglicanism.

      1. Father Steven A. Scarcia says:

        As far as I am aware, the American Episcopal Church never accepted or ratified the Articles of Religion of the Church of England. In the current BCP, it states “as established by…1801.” This was particularly true as the Book of Common Prayer used in the American Church was taken from the Anglican Church of Scotland. That is one reason why the Articles of Religion are relegated to the back of the Prayer Book along with the other “Historical Documents of the Church” (pg. 867). This is one reason why the “Articles” had not been used as Canon for the Church, but as historical reference. I have had many disagree with me, but in talking with some Episcopal Church Historians, I was assured that this was the case. I think how Martin Luther’s 1st Mass affected him when, at the Breaking of Bread, he anticipated that the Sacred Host would indeed bleed in his hands. I believe that the Blessed Sacrament (the consecrated bread & wine), is a sign, symbol & reality of Christ’s Real Presence among us both individually and as the Body of Christ, the Church. Also the Blessed Sacrament should be seen as the “Way” towards reunion and reconciliation among our Churches rather than a end to the means. My understanding is that all Roman Catholics can only receive the Sacrament if they believe in all that the Roman Church teaches, as well as going to Confession before they receive. In both reality and practice, I’m quite sure that there are those who do go to Holy Communion, who do not either subscribe to all the Faith of the Church, haven’t made their Sacramental Confession and yet week after week wait in line to make their Holy Communion. Since “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,” I suggest that Holy Communion should be seen a Sacrament of healing & strength for all who are baptized, who believe and who, with “fear & trembling” approach the Blessed Sacrament with wonder, awe and in anticipation that we are part of those Jewish disciples who, over 2000 years ago, reclined to eat & drink this new Sacred Mystery for the Remission of Sins…and they weren’t all on the same page or were even baptized, yet they received. We, whether Anglican or Roman, are inheritors of both the Kingdom of God and of Christ’s Real Presence in His Holy Communion.

  2. John Simpson says:

    Change come slowly, as does healing. The important thing for which we can all be grateful is that steps, no matter how small, are being made. That we all may be one.

  3. Seamus P Doyle says:

    Small steps are wonderful for children; but sooner or later one has to grow up and realize that the leaders are way behind the faithful who are the church and the people of God. The “laity” have no problem with women priests, married clergy, nor receiving communion in one anther’s churches. What are the church leaders afraid of?

  4. Deacon James Stagg says:

    Read his remarks carefully, folks.

    The Anglican Communion, in general, has large leaps to arrive at the Catholic understanding of Eucharist, and this does not even consider the inability for women to confect the Eucharist. The expected small (or even large) steps are figments of imagination. Christ does not “change”. What gives His Church the right to “change”?

  5. Wayne Skoblik says:

    Please keep in mind the authority for the Priest comes from laying on Hands from Bishops. The last time I looked the Anglican priests have no authorithy to do this.

    1. Teresa Janelle says:

      I am a member of the Anglican Church in Canada, and our understanding of Apostolic succession is that the Anglican church never broke it. The Roman Catholic church argues that we did, that we cannot pass on Priestly authority through the laying on of hands of Bishops, but this is actually a practice that still persists in Anglicanism. There is a difference of opinion as to whether this is a valid act, however. Lutherans are the ones who have broken Apostolic succession, and although we are in full communion, if a Lutheran were to celebrate the Eucharist in an Anglican church, they would require the laying on of hands before it was valid for them to consecrate the elements.

  6. Stewart David Wigdor says:

    I remember living in the most beautiful city in the world and every Sunday I woke up visited the Catholic church, the Episcopal church and the Presbyterian church each receiveing communion . It was like feasting on Love, as Jesus enters within you, life is extolled and exalted to come from Him to the earth.

  7. Jay Woods says:

    A Roman Catholic bishop now deceased said that “communion” is something people from different religious backgrounds in ministry (beyond ecumenical Lenten fish-frys) experience of God each day. That’s Christ’s Real presence. I agree. He was not side-stepping real differences either. He was saying that how we live together can lead to how we trust and believe together which can lead to sharing Eucharist. That sounds more natural to me and I think lay people because of circumstances may move or have already moved past or through belief together because of trusting one another and share communion in each other churches at times. Denominations for a larger or more global witness of communion may need to agree about beliefs/doctrines first, then experience joint ministries, then enter into formal communion with each other and celebrate that together.

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