10/05/2005, 00.00
vatican - synod on the eucharist
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Synod: the decline in confessions distances people from the Church

The need to relaunch reconciliation, Eucharistic centrality and a more equitable distribution of clergy were the topics addressed during deliberations.  The question of communion for the divorced and remarried was also discussed.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) -- The awareness of the centrality of the Eucharist, the relaunching of confession, the need for a more "equitable" distribution of priests were the main topics addressed in the speeches of the general congregation at the Synod of Bishops.  The Synod Fathers also looked at various pastoral questions, such as the problem of the divorced and remarried taking part in Communion and the practice of receiving Communion in the hand.

Centrality of the Eucharist

Almost all speeches delivered by the bishops underscored the centrality which the Eucharist has and must have in the life of the Church.  In the words of Monsignor Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, vescovo di Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey, in the Dominican Republic, "No Christian community can be built without being rooted in and centred on the Eucharist.  It is a pressing need that the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice be at the centre and the source of the community's entire life."

Monsignor Nicolas Cotugno Fanizzi, Archbishop of Montevideo in Uruguay said that "the sacramental dynamism of the Eucharist places us at the centre of the dynamism of history.  For this reason, either we set ourselves on our way to recovering or discovering the centrality of the Eucharist on Sundays, or we will disappear from the reality of history."

Relaunching confession

The pratice of confession needs to be relaunched as its "decline" is, as a consequence, reduced participation in the Eucharist, which are so widespread, especially in Western countries.  "Thus, Christians reach a state in which they are not able to evaluate the Eucharist as a source of grace and, little by little, also loose their ties with the parish community and the closeness of the entire Church."  This ultimately favours a kind of religious search with leads to "esoteric practices, magic, occultism, New Age."  This was the warning of Monsignor Rimantas Norvila, Lithuanian bishop of Vilkaviskis, who also calls for a relaunching of confession and "spiritual direction".  "As we can all see," Bishop Norvila said with regret, "in today's societies, especially those of the West, many people are given to esoteric pratices, magic, occultism, New Age tendencies.  All this together allows for people to create new community and social ties, which distances them more and more from the Church, from Catholic thought, and weaken faith; further on, we can observe deformations of conscience, changes that affect all aspects of people's personalities."

Again with reference to confession, Monsignor Lorenzo Voltolini Esti, Auxiliary Bishop of Portoviejo, Ecuador, maintained that many members of the faithful do not confess, "not only because they don't believe in the effectiveness of Confession or because they have lost the sense of sin, but simply because priests either have no time for confession (being overwhelmed by other occupations) or because, being alone in their parish, cannot celebrate the Eucharist and Penitence at the same time."  He proposed that it be "suggested or at least permitted" for diocese or episcopates "to institute, preferably during Lent and possibly on Fridays, a day of Eucharistic fasting, " i.e. a day without Eucharistic celebration, "to make room for the celebration of penitence at the community level and individual confession."

A better distrubtion of the clergy

Monsignor Roberto Camilleri Azzopardi, Bishop of Comayagua, Hondoras, called for a better distribution of the clergy.  A lack of priests, particularly in the Third World, highlights the need for a better distribution of priests: in other words, dioceses with greater priestly vocations must help dioceses in need of personnel.  "If we want to conquer the hearts of the young for the Lord," he also added, "it is above all imperative that we conquer their heart when they are children.  Spiritual accompaniment from infancy to youth is a long term mission, a commitment which lasts years."

Communion and the divorced and remarried

Monsignor John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington and Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of New Zealand, spoke of the problem of communion for the divorced and remarried.  "There are those," he said, among other things, "whose first marriages ended in sadness; they have never abandoned the Church, but are currently excluded from the Eucharist. There are Catholics married to people baptised in other Christian faiths. We acknowledge them to be baptised in Christ in the sacrament of marriage, but not in the reception of the Eucharist.  This Synod must be pastoral in approach; we must look for ways to include those who are hungering for the Bread of Life. The scandal of those hungering for Eucharistic food needs to be addressed, just as the scandal of physical hunger needs to be addressed."

Yes or no to taking Communion in the hand

Different stances were registered on the question of differing styles of celebration and in particular the way to distribute Communion.  The reduction, if not the abolition of Communion in the hand was called for by Monsignor Jan Pawel Lenga, Archbishop of Karaganda, Kazakstan, according to whom such practice "undeniably increases the risk of loosing fragments, of profanation and the effective equalizing of Eucharistic bread to ordinary bread."  He thus proposed that the Holy See "establish a motivated and universal norm, by which the official way to receive communion is in the mouth and kneeling."  Bishops in places where this practice has been introduced "would take measures with pastoral prudence to bring the faithful gradually back to the official rite of Communion."  Instead, Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch said he was favourable to Communion being received in the hand.  He quoted Saint Cyril of Jerusalem who spoke of hands "as the Lord's throne" and told of how worshippers, after having received Communion, would run their hands across their eyes and ears, "to be able to see and hear better." (FP)

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