Rev. Thomas Reese: Is the Pope Willing to Move Toward Eucharistic Sharing Without Total Theological Agreement?

Pope Francis talks to reporters during a news conference he held on an aircraft taking him back from Sibiu, Romania, to Rome, on June 2, 2019. Francis traveled across Romania to visit its far-flung Catholic communities to make up for the fact that St. John Paul II was only allowed to visit the capital, Bucharest, in 1999 in the first papal visit to a majority-Orthodox country. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

On the plane returning to Rome from Romania, Pope Francis made an extraordinary statement on the role of theology in ecumenical relations at his press conference Sunday (June 2).

In the past, church officials have stressed the need for theological agreement before Christian unity or Eucharistic sharing could be possible.

As a result, the Catholic Church is involved in extensive and complex theological dialogues with other Christian churches. These dialogues have made great progress in dealing with issues raised by the Reformation, but new issues (women’s ordination, gay marriage, abortion) have arisen that divide the churches.

This makes it very difficult to reach a final agreement.

But Francis told reporters on the plane, “Ecumenism is not getting to the end of discussions, it’s done walking together,” according to Crux. The journey is more important than the destination.

As a result, Francis stresses the ecumenism of shedding blood together and of working together in service to the poor, the sick and the marginalized. This fits with his famous statement that “facts are more important than ideas.” How we live our faith is more important than how we explain it.

But during the press conference Francis went further. As he explained on the plane, “there is already Christian unity,” according to the National Catholic Reporter. “Let’s not wait for the theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist.”

Is the pope signaling his willingness to move toward Eucharistic sharing without total theological agreement?

This would be consistent with everything else he is saying. If it is the journey, not the destination, that is important, then why not share food during the trip? Why wait until we arrive?

Such a view would see the Eucharist as a unifying sacrament rather than a celebration of unity.

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Source: Religion News Service