Online Edition – November 2006
Vol. XII, No. 8
Post-Synodal Document on Eucharist Expected Soon
The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life of the Church” was the title of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome October 6-23, 2005, concluding the Year of the Eucharist. At press time, there were several media reports that Pope Benedict XVI may soon release an Apostolic Exhortation based on the Synod on the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II customarily issued an Apostolic Exhortation following synods of the world’s bishops, though it is not obligatory to do so.
At the end of the Synod on the Eucharist, a list of 50 “propositions” based on the bishops’ discussions were voted on. And in June this year, a summary report on the synod was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops.
In his message on this occasion, the Holy Father spoke of the awaited final report on the synod: “I see gathered here so many competent people that I can only hope that I shall soon see and be able myself to learn from this text, which can then be published for the benefit of the whole Church that is eagerly expecting it”, and he commented further:
“Feeding the Lord’s flock, therefore, is a ministry of vigilant love that demands our total dedication, to the last drop of energy and, if necessary, the sacrifice of our lives.
“It is above all the Eucharist which is the source and secret of the ongoing dynamism of our mission. In fact, in his ecclesial life, the bishop is configured to the image of Christ, who nourishes us with His Flesh and Blood. From the Eucharist the pastor draws the power to exercise that special pastoral charity which consists in dispensing the food of truth to the Christian people.
“And this text which is being drafted will be one such intervention to nourish the People of God with the food of the truth, to help them grow in truth and especially to make known the mystery of the Eucharist and invite them to an intense Eucharistic life”.
The Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod on the Eucharist had mentioned “shadows” in liturgical celebration:
for example, a neglect by the celebrant and the ministers to use proper liturgical vestments and the participants’ lack of befitting dress for Mass; the use of profane music in Church; the tacit consent to eliminate certain liturgical gestures thought to be too traditional, such as genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament; an inadequate catechesis for Communion in the hand and its improper distribution; a lack of reverence before, during and after the celebration of Holy Mass, not only by the laity but also the celebrant; the scant architectural and artistic quality of sacred buildings and sacred vessels; and instances of syncretism in integrating elements from other religions in the inculturation of liturgical forms.
Meanwhile, there has also been speculation that the Holy Father intends to issue a document that may contain a “universal indult” granting unrestricted celebration of the so-called “Tridentine” rite according to the 1962 Missal. The speculation may be based in part on the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s observations that the “old Mass” was never abrogated, and on the Holy See’s repeated efforts to appeal to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to return to full Communion with the Church. The SSPX, followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, reject the authority of the Second Vatican Council and of recent popes.
Early this October the Ordinary Council for the Synod again met, this time to prepare a working document for the next Synod of Bishops, scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2008. The subject will be “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”.
The Synod Council, headed by General Secretary Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, is now working on a draft of a lineamenta (preliminary outline) for the next synod’s discussions, with a final version expected to be approved by the Synod Council in January 2007. The lineamenta will then be circulated among the world’s bishops for comment. On the basis of the bishops’ suggestions the Synod Council will compose the instrumentum laboris, the actual “working document” that will serve as the basis for the next synod’s discussions.