Protestants to take Catholic communion at Calvin's Cathedral in Geneva on leap year day

Low-gluten prayer breads fill a container at the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration monastery in Clyde Missouri December 18, 2014. The Sisters have made communion wafers since 1910 and began making a low-gluten version in 2003 and have gone from 143 customers in 2004 to more than 11,000 customers from around the world. | (Photo: Reuters/Dave Kaup)

In a first since the Reformation era, Protestants are set to receive communion during a Catholic mass at a historic Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, John Calvin's adopted home.

The historic Swiss church, Saint-Pierre Reformed Protestant church, will hold a Catholic mass on Feb. 29, leap day, and Protestants have been invited to attend and take part, including in receiving communion.

Although open communion is forbidden by Catholic doctrine, the practice is reportedly common in Geneva, according to Protest Info, a Swiss Protestant news outlet.

The church became the home of French Protestant Reformer John Calvin, whose famous triangular chair continues to be kept beside the pulpit.

"The decision to invite Fr. Desthieux to say mass in Saint-Pierre began as informal talks followed by an ecumenical service in the cathedral, which then “matured” into a discussion and a council vote, said Parish Council President Daniel Pilly," LifeSite reported.

Pilly told Protest Info that he faced no opposition to the idea.

"The idea appealed because it corresponds to our desire to make the cathedral a meeting place for all Geneva Christians. A space that transcends confessional boundaries,” he said.

"Protestants receiving communion is already done locally in many parishes during ecumenical celebrations where Protestants and Catholics invite each other to the Lord's Supper and to communion,” he said.

Emmanuel Fuchs, president of the Protestant Church in Geneva and a pastor in Saint-Pierre, added that the invitation indicates that "the climate in Geneva is extremely favorable and fruitful with the Roman Catholic Church. We have made notable progress in terms of ecumenism, especially with the Joint Declaration, signed in 2017, which recognizes our respective ministries.”

“As Pope Francis said, ecumenism is achieved by walking. We are trying to walk together in the hope that when we have made enough progress, the obstacles that seem to us today insurmountable will no longer be,” he said.

Catholic cardinals have long opposed the practice of shared communion or intercommunion, referring to the act of those who do not profess Catholicism but partake of communion as a "desecration" of the sacrament.

In addition to Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where it is said that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door in 1517, Saint-Pierre Reformed Protestant Church in Geneva is considered one of the most iconic sites of the Protestant Reformation.

The church began to be constructed under Arducius de Faucigny, the prince-bishop of the diocese of Geneva, around 1160, in Gothic style.

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