Vatican City (AsiaNews) Let the Church speak first of life after death; in an image-oriented society let it take greater care in how it presents the Eucharist; let it discover the Eucharist's mystic side; let it not try to deprive the faithful of the "Bread of Life" because estrangement is one way for sects to gain new followers.
These are but some of the more tangible concerns raised by the bishops as they speak at the Synod. Poignant words are said about how the Cuban Church celebrates the Eucharist despite its small number of priests.
Speaking about everyone's resurrection
Let the Church speak again of eschatology, of life after death and everyone's resurrection, said Fr Andrea Pantaloni, Abbot General of the Sylvestrine Benedictines. "I believe that people today are strongly concerned about the question of whether there is life after death," he said. "Such a question is inherent to Christianity: the resurrection of the flesh the Eucharist proclaims and offer.
For Abbot Pantaloni, there is a "need to turn the proclamation of the Resurrection and the certainty about our personal resurrection into one of the focal points of the Synod."
"Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ 'worthily', wrote St Paul, "was the pledge, principle and seed of the resurrection of our flesh. The mission of the Church is to proclaim the resurrection of the flesh; everything else becomes less and will never be the Gospel."
Preparing the celebrations with greater care
Like others who spoke Mgr Johannes G. M. van Burgsteden, Auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem (Netherlands, focused on how liturgical celebrations are prepared, acknowledging that "we live in a world ruled by an image-oriented culture."
On the one hand, "this means that well-prepared liturgies that respect aesthetic principles can raise interest in people." On the other, "church Sunday attendance is low (10 per cent in the Netherlands)." Why?
"The way in which the mystery of the Eucharist is explained speaks to a landscape of philosophical notions that is alien to modern man. For this reason, its contentsthe doctrineare brought to the attention of people only with great difficulty."
"The practice of religious celebration is frequently uninspiring to modern man. Finding a balance between contents and experience, theory and that which is lived, is one of the great challenges that we have to face."
For his part, Mgr Albino Mamede Cleto, Bishop of Coimbra (Portugal) said that "in a secularised society having food is not enough, we also need to know how to prepare the table. More important than placing the Host in the hand or on the tongue is to do this with the dignity transmitted by faith."
Sects and those "estranged" from the Eucharist
Preventing those who cannot take the Eucharist from becoming estranged from the Church concerns Bishop Francois Xavier Yombandje, chairman of the Bishops' Conference of Central Africa, and Cardinal Julian Herranz.
There are some faithful who are denied full access to the Eucharist even though "they may hold wonderful memories of that experience and sustain their Christian commitment. But sects and other groups are always trying to recruit among even the best of those Christians who are going through tough times. The time might have come to find a pastoral way to prevent them from the irreparable."
Cardinal Herranz, chairman of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said that "the communion was a fundamental but not an absolute right" because there are "some personal prerequisites that limit the right".
There are "many irregular situations, but all those who find themselves in them must be followed with loving patience and pastoral concern in order that they might be readmitted or in order to prevent anyone from becoming estranged from the Church or feel excommunicated."
The Cuban Church bears witness
"Despite its small number of priests, we hold the Eucharist in high regard and celebrated it according to the proper liturgical rules," said Mgr Alfredo Víctor Petit Vergel, Auxiliary Bishop of San Cristóbal de La Habana.
Since building new churches is nearly impossible, "we have prayer or mission homes in suburban areas, in towns and villages. Every week or whenever possible, small groups of faithfulnever more than 40 peoplegather under the stewardship of a committed layman, a nun or a deacon. Priests come to celebrate holy mass with great devotion and respect for liturgical rules, performing the sacrament of the confession for those who are rightly disposed to take the Eucharistic Bread." (FP)