Synod summaries: 18th and 19th Congregations

 On Friday afternoon, in the Vatican's Synod Hall in the presence of the Holy Father and of 233 Synod Fathers, the Seventeenth General Congregation took place of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Francis Arinze. During the meeting, the reports from the Working Groups (or language groups) were read out, after which the first round of voting was held to elect the 12 members of the post-synodal council. Following are excerpts from some of the reports: ENGLISH LANGUAGE GROUP B: BISHOP DONALD WILLIAM WUERL OF PITTSBURGH, USA. "In discussing the need to celebrate the Eucharist in the circumstances of our day, we recognise a number of values at issue. First and most significant is the fact that the Eucharist is essential to the Church. ... Yet we must also take into account the seriousness of the shortage of priests in so many parts of the world. We also recognise the place of married clergy in the Eastern Churches. Our discussion highlighted that celibacy is not the principal and certainly not the sole reason for this shortage. In fact the culture of today is in crisis in a number of other areas including the nature, duration and vitality of marriage. The lack of lifelong commitment seems to be a fundamental "leitmotif' throughout our reflections on much of modem life. ... In looking at the situation we must now provide some observations on how to deal with it. A number of reflections surfaced. First was the obvious need to encourage vocations to priestly ministry. ... Local churches should be open to sharing priests. ... Finally we faced the issue of Eucharistic services that now often take the place of Mass. ... Our reflections reinforced the need to find some more clearly definable religious service in place of the Mass where this is necessary. ... We concluded that programs for priests, deacons and the laity on good liturgy are not only helpful but necessary. The involvement of well-prepared laity and parish liturgical formation programs was encouraged." SPANISH LANGUAGE GROUP B: ARCHBISHOP ALBERTO GIRALDO JARAMILLO P.S.S., OF MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA. "The members drew up 27 propositions which may be briefly summarised up as follows: Priests should be given guidelines in order that their celebrations express an awareness of acting under the effect of the Holy Spirit; in this way they will ensure the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, with all the richness of His redeeming work. All bishops should give great importance to the formation of seminarians, accompanying them and their teachers. Special care and attention has to be given to the selection and formation of candidates to live the charism of celibacy. Dignified celebrations should be guaranteed in the cathedral, the parishes and the various churches of the diocese. The faithful should also be given the opportunity of being able to visit the Holy Sacrament at any time of day. Well-structured vocational pastoral care should be organized in the diocese, based on prayer for vocations and with the support of families, priests and seminarians. Special attention should be paid to the sick so as to ensure they receive the Eucharist. ... Special attention should be given to people who have formed their families on the basis of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Consideration should also be given to the difficult situation of those who have suffered the pains of separation, seeking to approach them with an attitude of compassion, and offering them guidance and support to enable them to resolve their situation with an appropriate canonical process. There should be renewed pastoral care of the Sacrament of Penance. ... Let us succeed in finding suitable catechistic ways for priests and faithful to understand the presence of Mary in every Eucharistic celebration. Let us succeed in understanding that, although the Eucharist is a gift, it is our pastoral duty to bring people close to this Sacrament, Helping them to receive the Lord Jesus in the Sacrament." ENGLISH LANGUAGE GROUP A: ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN OF DUBLIN, IRELAND. "Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should spring from and lead back to the Eucharistic action. Eucharistic adoration, considered as a re-emerging sign of the times, can greatly sustain the holiness of individuals and communities. The group expressed particular appreciation, affirmation and encouragement to priests for their fidelity in the ministry of the Eucharist. Speaking of the 'ars celebrandi' it was stressed that what is involved is not some type of choreography of the liturgical rite but a way of entering into the mystery of the Eucharist and a longing to enter into communion with God, through the Paschal mystery. ... It was suggested that a listing of thematic homilies be prepared to cover the basic mysteries of Salvation with appropriate references to the Lectionary, the Fathers of the Church and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The group stressed the need to develop a lay Eucharistic spirituality. It was also suggested that a 'Eucharistic Companion' be drawn up with doctrinal, catechetical and devotional contents for the benefits of the faithful. The group stressed the bonds between the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance, especially as many people have lost the sense of sin. The acute shortage of priests in some areas is a matter of anguish to the entire Church. In the absence of priests, the group emphasised the value of the liturgy of the Word as sustenance for those who are deprived of access to the Eucharist. In certain parts of the world the drop in the numbers participating regularly Sunday Mass is a source of great concern." FRENCH LANGUAGE GROUP: BISHOP PAUL-ANDRE DUROCHER OF ALEXANDRIA-CORNWALL, CANADA. "Our attitude towards secularisation must be more qualified. In fact, there are seeds of the Word in our world of today. The Eucharist may satisfy the thirst and the hope of our times. ... Faith celebrated in the Eucharist should also be lived on a daily basis. The contemplation of Christ's sacrifice, with which we are called to identify ourselves, could help us to achieve this unity of faith and life. However, one should understand this sacrifice as a mystery of love, a promise of life and a way of freedom. The shortage of priests saddens us and we strongly feel the anguish of many faithful who, because of this problem, have no access to the Sacraments. The idea to ordain 'viri probati' has been discussed, but has not reached majority approval. The group is unanimous in stating the invaluable worth of priestly celibacy for the Latin Church and wishes to engage the Church in more energetic and positive vocational pastoral care, one open to the gifts of God. Moreover, we think that a better placing of 'fidei donum' priests will help to gradually overcome this shortage." GERMAN LANGUAGE GROUP: BISHOP GERHARD LUDWIG MULLER OF REGENSBURG, GERMANY. "The presentation of the Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church remains the task of theology, spirituality and pastoral care. The lack of understanding of the liturgy and its practice can only be overcome by a positive orientation towards Jesus Christ. He is 'the true light, that enlightens every man.' However, Christians in Western civilization are affected by the secularisation of conscience. This can lead to rendering real Christian truths banal, and to the profanation of liturgy and ways of life. Often, there is a discrepancy between the catechism we imagine in our heads and the temptations and pressures of collective life. ... The consequences of this can be indifference, or even aggression towards the doctrines and the morals of the Church, which appear strange to the world and hostile to life. ... How can the Church, in accordance with 'Gaudium et spes,' welcome and formulate the worries and needs of modern men and women and, at the same time, bear witness today to Christ as the answer to their fundamental existential questions? We may expect an authentic renewal of Christians - religious and lay people, and especially committed Christian youth - who allow themselves to be attracted to Christ, who live in the love of the Eucharistic Christ and are willing to accept Christian matrimony and life according to the evangelical counsels, to which they have been called by the Holy Spirit in order to build the Church with different charisms. It is not a question of numbers, but of quality." ITALIAN LANGUAGE GROUP: BISHOP RENATO CORTI OF NOVARA, ITALY. "We felt it right to draw attention to two questions: one concerning the education in Eucharistic faith, and one relative to the missionary commitment we are called to cultivate through Eucharistic celebration. ... As for the theme of educating the faithful to the centrality of Sunday Eucharistic celebrations, discussions dedicated ample space to Sunday, understood as 'Dies Christi' and 'Dies hominis,' also touching upon the theme of the Eucharist, and especially considering Sunday as 'Dies Ecclesiae.' ... The group also reflected on the experience with which those who come to the Sacraments should be presented, and how to give this experience the form of an itinerary, even that of a mystagogy. As for the pastoral care of those in irregular matrimonial situations, our reflections first concentrated on the period that precedes marriage, with reference to the education of young people and to pre-matrimonial courses, then on the conditions (often marked by solitude) that exist within families, observing an urgent need for direct contact with the families in our parishes. Finally, the group considered the specific position of those living an irregular matrimonial situations, and sought to indicate some possible answers so that people feel welcomed, entrust themselves to the Lord and take concrete steps in the light of the Gospel." EIGHTEENTH GENERAL CONGREGATION On Saturday morning in the Vatican's Synod Hall, the Eighteenth General Congregation was held in the presence of the Holy Father and of 234 Synod Fathers, during which the draft of the final Message of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was presented and discussed. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez. At the beginning of the session, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, informed those present that the Holy Father had decided to give all the Synod Fathers of episcopal rank a ring decorated with the image of a pelican. The pelican is a traditional Eucharistic symbol as, by pecking at its breast, it was said to draw blood from its own heart to feed its young. The experts and auditors will be given a Rosary. Since no Synod Father received an absolute majority in the first round of voting to elect the 12 members of the post-synodal council, a second ballot was held and the 12 Synod Fathers with the greatest number of votes were duly elected to form the council. The list of members, with additional members by pontifical appointment, will be made public during the next few days. Source: Vis

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