Pope Reminders, Protestant Concerns

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

At the Vatican's Holy Thursday Mass, Pope John Paul II issued urgent reminders to the Roman Catholic Church.

Catholics should only take communion in Roman Catholic Churches. And divorced Catholics who remarry cannot receive Holy Communion.

This was expected to upset many American Catholics who hope someday the Pope might reverse that ban.

"The church is essentially a communion of people and divorce is essentially a breaking of that communion," says Mary Ann Heerschap of St. Francis Catholic Church in Staunton.

She shares the Pope's concern about a watered down Catholic Church.

"Whenever you speak out against something like the Pope does, people don't like it because they're offended," she said.

And they were. Protestant leaders immediately criticized the Pontiff for not allowing Catholics to celebrate communion with other Christians.

They say this re-surfaces a denominational divide.

Pastor Carey Willis of Harrisonburg's First Church of the Nazarene said, "Christ prayed that we would be one as he is one with the Father so we believe unity is the pinnacle of Christian vision."

Willis says communion is a sacred and intimate moment for believers and an invitation of forgiveness for unbelievers.

But Catholics believe it's a miracle, and only certain people can participate.

"The priest raises the wine and bread, the Holy Spirit comes down and transforms it into the body and blood of Christ," explains Heerschap.

She says the standards surrounding communion are hard but beneficial. But Willis says religious rules can divide Christians. Even Christ, he says, got in trouble with religious leaders for eating with sinners.

"To share a meal with someone is to offer them forgiveness, love and friendship," says Willis.

And he says that hope is what Easter is all about.

The Pope has said better relations with other Christians is a cherished goal of his.

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