On October 21, at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, held at the Vatican, the 256 Bishops who attended the meeting approved the Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God; the commission for its writing was presided over by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City. The goal of this Synod was to offer proposals to the Holy Father that might help him to update and deepen the Eucharistic life of the Church; Pope Benedict XVI is to issue an Apostolic Exhortation on this issue in the coming months. Here are excerpts from this message of the Synod:
Christ is living in His Church, as He promised (see Mt 28:20). He remains with us always until the end of the world. He gives Himself to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, along with the joy of loving as He loved. He commands us to share His victorious love with our brothers and sisters of the whole world. This is the joyful message that we proclaim to you, beloved brothers and sisters, at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.
The meeting of the Synod has been an intense time of sharing and witnessing to the life of the Church in the different continents. We have been made aware of extreme situations and suffering generated by wars, hunger, different forms of terrorism and injustice, which touch the daily life of hundreds of millions of human beings. The explosive violence in the Middle East and in Africa has reminded us that the African continent has been forgotten by the public opinion of the world. Natural disasters, which seem to have multiplied, force us to look upon nature with greater respect, and to strengthen our solidarity with those suffering peoples.
We have not remained silent before the consequences of secularization, present above all in the West, that lead to religious indifference and various expressions of relativism. We have remembered and denounced the situations of injustice and extreme poverty that are in evidence everywhere, but especially in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia. All this suffering cries out to God, and challenges the conscience of humanity. It challenges us all. What is becoming of the global village of our earth, the threatened environment that risks being ruined? What can be done so that, in this era of globalization, solidarity might triumph over suffering and misery?
We also direct our thoughts to those who govern the nations that they take diligent care to provide access to the common good for all. We ask that they be promoters of the dignity of every human being, from conception till natural death. We ask them to enact laws which respect the natural rights of marriage and the family. For our part, we will continue to participate actively in a common effort to generate lasting conditions for genuine progress for the whole human family, where no one is lacking his or her daily bread.
On the eve of His Passion, "Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying: 'Take, eat, this is My Body. Then he took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying: 'Drink of it all of you; for this is My Blood, the Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Mt 26:25-28). "Do this in memory of Me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-25). From its beginnings, the Church has remembered the death and resurrection of Jesus with the same words and actions of the Last Supper, asking the Spirit to transform the bread and wine. into the Body and into the Blood of Christ. We firmly believe, and we teach in the constant tradition of the Church, that the words of Jesus pronounced by the priest at the Mass, in the power of the Holy Spirit, effect what they signify. They bring about the real presence of the risen Christ. The Church lives from this gift par excellence that gathers it, purifies it, and transforms it into the one body of Christ, animated by the one Spirit (see Eph 5:29).
The Eucharist is the gift of love, love of the Father who sent His only Son so that the world might be saved (see Jn 3:16-17); the love of Christ who loved us to the end (see Jn 13:1); the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (see Rom 5:5), who cries out in us "Abba, Father!" (Gal 4:6). In celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, therefore, we joyfully announce the salvation of the world in proclaiming the victorious death of the Lord until He comes. In our communion with his Body, we receive the "pledge" of our own resurrection.
Forty years after the Second Vatican Council, we wanted to examine to what extent the mysteries of the Faith are adequately expressed and celebrated in our liturgical assemblies. The Synod reaffirms that the Second Vatican Council provided the necessary basis for an authentic liturgical renewal. It is necessary now to cultivate the positive fruits of this reform, and to correct abuses that have crept into liturgical practice. We are convinced that respect for the sacred character of the liturgy is transmitted by genuine fidelity to liturgical norms of legitimate authority. No one should consider himself master of the Church's liturgy. Living Faith that recognizes the presence of the Lord is the first condition for beautiful liturgical celebrations, which give a genuine "Amen" to the glory of God.
The life of our Churches is also marked by shadows and problems which we have not ignored. In the first place, we think of the loss of the sense of sin and the persistent crisis in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance. It is important to rediscover its deepest meaning; it is a conversion and a precious remedy given by the risen Christ for the forgiveness of sins (see Jn 20:23) and for the growth of love towards Him and our brothers and sisters.
It is interesting to notice, that more and more young people, suitably catechized, practice confessing their personal sins, so revealing an awareness of the reconciliation required for the worthy reception of Holy Communion.
We know the sadness of those who do not have access to sacramental Communion because of their family situations that do not conform to the Commandment of the Lord (see Mt 19:3-9). Some divorced and remarried people sadly accept their inability to take sacramental Communion, and they make an offering of it to God. Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with an internal frustration. We reaffirm that, while we do not endorse their choice, they are not excluded from the life of the Church. We ask that they participate in Sunday Mass and devote themselves assiduously to listening to the Word of God so that it might nourish their life of Faith, of love, and of conversion. We wish to tell them how close we are to them in prayer and pastoral concern. Together, let us ask the Lord to obey His Will faithfully.
We have also observed that, in certain areas, there is a lessening of the sense of the sacred that affects not only the active and fruitful participation of the faithful at Mass, but also the manner in which the celebration takes place and the quality of the witness that Christians are called to give. We seek to revive, by means of the Holy Eucharist, the sense and joy of belonging to the Catholic community, as an increasing number of departures from the Church is evident in certain countries. The fact of de-Christianization calls for a better formation to Christian life in families so that sacramental practice is revitalized and genuinely expresses the content of the Faith. We therefore invite parents, pastors, and catechists to work toward re-establishing a strategy for evangelization and education in the Faith at the beginning of this new millennium.
Before the Lord of history and the future of the world, the poor of every generation and today, the ever-increasing number of victims of injustice, and all the forgotten of this world, challenge us. They remind us of Christ's agony, until the end of the world. These sufferings cannot remain extraneous to the celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery which summons all of us to work for justice and the transformation of the world in an active and conscious fashion, on the basis of the social teaching of the Church that promotes the centrality and the dignity of the human person.
"We cannot delude ourselves: mutual love and especially the care that we show for those who are in need, will indicate that we will be recognized as true disciples of Christ (see Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This is the criterion that will attest the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations."
Dear young people, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has repeatedly said that you lose nothing when you give yourselves to Christ. We take up again his strong and serene words from his inaugural Mass that direct you toward true happiness, with the greatest respect for your personal freedom: "Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life." We have great trust in your capacity and your desire to develop the positive values in the world, and to change what is unjust and violent. Please count upon our support and our prayer so that we may together accept the challenge to build the future with Christ. You are the "sentinels of the morning" and the "explorers of the future." Do not fail to draw from the source of divine energy in the Holy Eucharist to bring about the changes that are necessary.
Dear Christian married couples and your families, your vocation to holiness begins as the domestic Church, is nourished at the Holy Table of the Eucharist. Your faith in the Sacrament of Marriage transforms your nuptial union into a Temple of the Holy Spirit, into a rich source of new life, generating children, the fruit of your love. We have often spoken of you at the Synod because we are conscious of the fragility and the uncertainties of the world today.
Remain strong in your struggle to educate your children in the Faith. You are the source where vocations to the priesthood and the religious life are born. Do not forget that Christ dwells in your union; He blesses it with all the graces you need to live your vocation in a saintly way. We encourage you to maintain the practice of participating as a family in the Sunday Eucharist. In this way, you bring joy to the heart of Jesus, who has said: "Let the little children come to Me" (Mk 10:14).
23. We wish to address a special word to all the suffering, especially the sick and the handicapped, who are united with Christ's sacrifice through their suffering (see Rom 12:2). In your suffering of body and heart, you participate in a special way in the sacrifice of the Eucharist, and you are privileged witnesses of the love which comes from it. We are certain that in the moment when we experience our own frailty and limitations, the strength of the Eucharist can be a great help. United to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, we find the answer to the anguish of suffering and death, especially when sickness strikes innocent children. We are close to you all, and especially close to those of you who are dying and who receive the Body of Christ as Viaticum for their final journey toward the Kingdom.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Peace be with you!
On October 5, 2005, during the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga M.I.C., from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, called to mind the sacredness of the Eucharist and discussed ways to highlight this fact. He said that "among the liturgical innovations produced in the Western world, two in particular tend to cloud the visible aspect of the Eucharist, especially as regards its centrality and sacredness: the removal of the tabernacle from the center, and the distribution of Communion in the hand."
"Communion in the hand", he said, "is spreading and even prevailing as being easier, as a kind of fashion... Therefore, I humbly propose the following practical propositions: that the Holy See issue a universal regulation establishing the official way of receiving Communion as being in the mouth and kneeling; with Communion in the hand to be reserved for the clergy alone." He likewise asked that "bishops in places where Communion in the hand has been introduced, work with pastoral prudence to bring the faithful slowly back to the official rite of Communion, valid for all local Churches."
Cardinal Janis Pujats of Riga, Latvia, was the first to raise the issue, telling the synod Oct. 3 that he thought Catholics should receive Communion on the tongue — while kneeling. When communicants stand, Cardinal Pujats said, he feels like a dentist looking into their mouths.