The leader of the ecumenism committee said the Vatican's rejection of the German proposal was 'inexplicable'

The Vatican is facing a backlash from Germany after the publication of a letter on Communion for Protestants.

A majority of the bishops’ conference had approved a plan to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion if they experienced “distress”.

After an appeal from a minority of German bishops, Pope Francis originally declined to give a decision. But yesterday it emerged that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a letter approved by the Pope, later told the German bishops that they should not proceed with their plan.

The letter said that the plan had theological implications for the whole Church, and that the bishops should await further clarification from the Vatican.

Today Bishop Gerhard Feige, who leads the German bishops’ ecumenism commission, wrote a strongly-worded response for the bishops’ conference website.

Bishop Feige said that the Vatican’s “incomprehensible” decision had caused “wounds” in the German Church. “The disappointment is great for many, the damage is not yet foreseeable,” the bishop wrote.

He criticised “black-and-white thinking”, saying that each case had to be taken individually, given the “innumerable exceptions” to general rules.