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An ‘ecumenical Mass’ is impossible, says German cardinal

Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne (CNS photo/Sascha Steinbach, EPA)

Catholics and Protestants do not have enough in common to celebrate a so-called ‘ecumenical Mass’, a German cardinal has said.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne said there is “no basis” for such a service because the denominations “do not agree on the central issues” around the Eucharist.

The cardinal explained in the Kölner Express that for Catholics, the Eucharist is not just a common meal; it is the true Body and Blood of Christ in the transubstantiated gifts of bread and wine. Protestants do not have this understanding.

The Real Presence is an “incontrovertible certainty” for Catholics, he said. As long as these differences exist, there can be no “common supper”.

Cardinal Woelki’s comments come as rumours circulate in the media that Vatican officials are secretly preparing an ‘ecumenical Mass’ that Catholics and Protestants can jointly celebrate.

The Australian reported that the Vatican has failed to deny the story, although one unnamed source said they did not believe the rumours, and added that it would be impossible for Catholics to receive Communion at such a service.

The Mass would supposedly include prayers, readings from scripture and a common Communion, but the Catholic and Protestant clergy would pray the words of consecration silently, the paper said.

In an article for First Things, Marco Tosatti raised the prospect of such a Mass. “Though never officially announced, a committee reporting directly to Pope Francis has been working on this liturgy for some time,” he claimed.

“Certainly this topic is within the jurisdiction of the Congregation for Divine Worship, but Cardinal Sarah (the head of the Congregation) has not officially been informed of the committee’s existence.

“According to good sources, Sarah’s secretary, Arthur Roche—who holds positions opposite to those of Benedict XVI and Sarah—is involved, as is Piero Marini.”