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Rules on Communion reaffirmed

Responding to a challenge from German bishops, the Vatican last week refused to change its longstanding doctrine that divorced Catholics who remarry outside of the church cannot receive Holy Communion.

Written by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II, the nine-page document stated that the ruling "is not at all a punishment or a discrimination against the divorced and remarried, but rather expresses an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of Holy Communion."

The letter was seen as a response to a statement written last year by four German bishops in which they attempted to find some leeway in the church's teaching.

The bishops suggested that Catholics who are convinced in conscience that their first marriage was invalid but who are unable to obtain annulments from church tribunals could receive the sacrament.