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  November 7, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 19Oakland, CA

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Synod on Eucharist ends with
affirmation of Church tradition


Judge Alito would provide historic
Catholic majority on Supreme Court


CRS continues earthquake response

Rosa Parks remembered as woman of faith

Restored historic Cathedral reopens
near state Capitol in Sacramento

A garden of learning blossoms in Lafayette

Latino teens step forward as community organizers

CCHD funds non-profit’s efforts to empower immigrants

Benicia pastor assumes leadership of Berkeley parish

Father Baraan is new administrator at Union City parish

New altar consecrated

Disney’s ‘Narnia’ fuels fascination with author C.S. Lewis

 

COMMENTARY
•Prop. 76 and Prop. 73 pose critical questions for Calif. voters

•It is time to change how we allocate this nation’s resources

•The prayer of silence before the God beyond all names

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Synod on Eucharist ends with
affirmation of Church tradition

VATICAN CITY— More than 250 bishops filed into St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 23, for a Mass concluding the first synod of Pope Benedict XVI’s reign, a focus on Eucharistic renewal.

After weeks of discussion that identified Catholicism’s global priest shortage and the sacramental status of remarried Catholics as top concerns, the bishops reaffirmed traditional teaching, based on Christ’s example, as the best answer to the challenges facing the Church.

“The synodal work allowed us to deepen the salient aspects of this mystery, given to the Church from the beginning,” Benedict told the synod’s bishops, who had convened in Rome to advise Benedict, not set policy. “How can we not take up, once again, the invitation by the beloved Pope John Paul II to ‘start again from Christ’?”

The pope expressed his deep sadness that four Chinese bishops who had been invited to participate in the synod had not been allowed to travel to Rome. He told the assembly that the Church in China was still on a “suffering path.”

At the start of the worldwide gathering, bishops had jockeyed to set the synod agenda and test the limits of their freshman pontiff. Issues often ducked during John Paul’s 26-year reign took center stage as bishops pondered the possibility of introducing exemplary married men known as “viri probati” into the priesthood as a means of stemming the priest shortage. One bishop even challenged the theological validity of the priesthood’s celibacy requirement.

At the closing Mass, Benedict expressed gratitude to the bishops for their input and invited Catholics to reflect on the Eucharist as the key to transforming their lives.

He called priestly celibacy “a precious gift and the sign of undivided love towards God,” Benedict said, linking the practice of celibacy to the Eucharist, the sacrament of bread and wine that was the synod’s official theme.

At the outset of the synod, bishops from some of the world’s most priest-poor regions noted that the shortage undercut their ability to distribute the Eucharist in the first place. Bishop Roberto Camilleri Azzopardi of Comayaga, Honduras, reported having one priest for every 16,000 Catholics in his diocese.

Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, Philippines, reported that in 40 of the 60 parishes he oversees, lay people regularly distribute Communion in the absence of priests—a fact that he said diminishes the sacramental value of the Eucharist.

“In the absence of the priest, there is no Eucharist. We should face squarely the issue of the shortage of priests,” Bishop Tagle said at a press conference at the synod’s start.

But in the end, the bishops did not propose any concrete changes to Church policy. As an advisory body, the synod prepared a list of 50 propositions that bishops presented to the pope on Oct. 22. The pope immediately ordered that the propositions be published, a change from the usual confidential nature of such recommendations.

The pope is expected to reflect on the propositions and may give his official response in an “apostolic exhortation” that generally is released a few weeks after the synod.

One proposition presented to the pope acknowledged “the acute pain that is felt over the lack of priests in some parts of the world. Many faithful are deprived of the Bread of Life.”

The bishops synod-ending document underscored the need to “sensitize families” that are “indifferent if not contrary” to letting their sons enter the priesthood. It also called for a “more equal distribution of priests” throughout the world, an idea that at least some bishops regard as a short-term measure that does not replace the need for local vocations.

Speaking at a press conference at the synod’s close, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, described the synod as a “massive endorsement” of priestly celibacy, which he considered
significant.

“When you have a synod backing this discipline of the Latin church in such a nearly unanimous way, that’s not unimportant,” he said.

The proposals dampened hopes that Catholics who had divorced and remarried without an annulment might be permitted to receive Communion after Archbishop John Atcherley of Wellington, New Zealand, suggested the Church should rethink its ban.

The bishops reaffirmed Church teaching prohibiting such remarried couples from receiving Communion on the grounds that their sexual relations are sinful.

“According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, they cannot be admitted to Communion, finding themselves in conditions of objective contrast with the Word of the Lord,” the bishops’ document reads.

The proposal did encourage these remarried couples to abstain from sex, maintaining “a loyal and trustworthy friendship” in accordance with Church teaching.

The issue of Communion and Catholic politicians received some attention.

“Politicians and legislators must feel themselves particularly moved in their conscience, correctly formed, about the grave social responsibility of presenting and supporting iniquitous laws,” the proposal read.

The question of whether wayward politicians should receive Communion, the proposal said, should be left to the individual discretion of bishops who “should exercise the virtues of firmness and prudence, taking account of concrete local situations.”

It is up to the local bishops’ conferences to set policies on the distribution of Communion during Sunday Liturgies of the Word when no priest is present. One of the synod propositions asked the Vatican to consider preparing a new document that would spell out universal rules on such liturgies.

The synod’s other recommendations included:
• Reaffirmation that shared Communion with non-Catholic Christians “is generally not possible” and that an “ecumenical concelebration” of the Eucharist is even more objectionable.
• Better emphasis on the missionary aspect of the Eucharist.
• Study and possible change in the order of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
• Possible relocation in the liturgy of the sign of peace.
• Reminding Catholics of the importance of gestures of adoration, such as genuflection, before the consecrated host.
• Better awareness of the Eucharist’s connection with social justice issues including ecological concerns.

 

Pope Benedict waves as he arrives to celebrate Mass, Oct. 23, at the close of the synod. He affirmed the Roman Catholic rule of priestly celibacy, rejecting suggestions that the way to confront the Church’s shortage of priests is to allow them to marry.

RNS PHOTO/REUTERS/Tony Gentile

 


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