Holy Communion is exclusively for Catholics in a state of grace and not something to be shared between friends like beer or cake, said a former senior adviser to two popes.

Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze said any moves to give greater access to Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics and to non-Catholic spouses of Catholics represented “serious” challenges to the teaching of the Church on the Eucharist.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, he implicitly objected to interpretations of Pope Francis’s 2016 apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” that would permit divorced and remarried Catholics who had not received an annulment to receive Communion in certain circumstances.

“We cannot be more merciful than Christ,” he continued. “If any of us says he has permission from Christ to change one of the major points Christ gave us in the Gospel, we would like to see that permission and also the signature.”

“You can see that it is not possible,” he said. “Not even if all of the bishops agree, it doesn’t become so. It is rather serious, because it touches the faith on the Holy Eucharist and also that marriage cannot be dissolved between Christians who have lived together and no human power can dissolve it. It is rather serious.”

In his interview at Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, Cardinal Arinze also said that sharing Communion with Protestant spouses was not an issue of hospitality.

He said that while he wished other Christians well it was important understand that “the Holy Eucharist is not our private possession which we can share with our friends.”

“Our tea is such and also our bottle of beer. We can share those with our friends,” Cardinal Arinze said.

“It is very important to look at the doctrine,” he said. “The Eucharistic celebration of the Mass is not an ecumenical service. It is not a gathering of those who believe in Christ and who invent a prayer for the occasion, it is a celebration of the mysteries of Christ who died for us on the cross, who made bread into his body and wine into his blood and told the apostles ‘do this in memory of me.’

“The Eucharistic celebration of the Mass is the celebration of the faith community – those who believe in Christ, they are communicating in the faith, and in the sacraments, and in ecclesiastical communion… ecclesiastical unity with their pastor, their bishop and the Pope. It is the community which celebrates the Holy Eucharist. Anybody who is not a member of that community does not fit in at all,” he said.

He said if Protestants wished to receive holy Communion in Catholic churches then they should become Catholics.

“Come, be received into the Church, and then you can receive Holy Communion seven times a week. Otherwise no,” said Cardinal Arinze.

His comments were made amid a controversy over the German bishops’ pastoral handbook titled: “Walking with Christ – In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist.”

The text of the guidelines has not been made public, but it is widely assumed to foresee situations in which a Lutheran married to a Catholic and attending Mass with the spouse could receive Communion regularly.

Full story at Catholic Herald.