Will an intervention from the Vatican be necessary to clarify or will the German bishops have to find an agreement?
Pope Francis: This is not a novelty because in the Code of Canon Law, what the German bishops were talking about is foreseen: communion in special cases. And, they were looking at the problem of mixed marriages, no? If it is possible or it isn’t possible. And the Code says that the bishop of the particular Church - this word is important, “particular,” if it is of a diocese - must read that. It’s in his hands. This is in the Code.
The German bishops, because they had seen that it wasn’t clear... also some priests did things who weren’t in agreement with the bishop, have wished to study this theme and have made this study that I don’t want to exaggerate, but it was a study of more than a year, and more… it’s more than a year… well done… and the study was restrictive.
What the bishops wanted is to say clearly what is in the Code. And, I read it and said: this is a restrictive document, no? It wasn’t open to everyone. It’s a well thought-out thing, with ecclesial spirit. And they wished to do it for the local Church, not the particular. The thing slid along up until there for the German [bishops’] conference. And there, there is a problem, because the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.
And this was the difficulty of the discussion: not so much the content, but this. And they sent the document. Then, there were two or three meetings of dialogue or of clarification and Archbishop Ladaria sent that letter, but with my permission. He didn’t do it alone! I told him: ‘Yes, it’s better to make a step ahead and say that the document isn’t yet mature and that the thing needed to be studied more.’ Then, there was another meeting and at the end they will study the thing.
I think that this will be an orientative document so that each of the diocesan bishops can manage what canon law already permits.
It wasn’t a brake … it is reading the thing so that it goes along the right path. When I made a visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome, a question of the kind was posed, and I replied according to the spirit of the Code of Canon Law. It is the spirit that they are seeking now. Maybe it wasn’t the right information in the right moment, a little bit of confusion, but this is the thing: the particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal.