13TH MARCH 2007
Bishops welcome Papal Letter on the Eucharist
‘Jesus Christ is not just a private conviction or an abstract idea, but a real person.’ – Pope Benedict XVI
On the second day of the March General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth, the Bishops welcomed the publication today of Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Exhortation on the Eucharist, entitled Sacramentum Caritatis – ‘The Sacrament of Love’.
Highlighting the connection between this and the theme of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical letter God is Love, the Bishops encourage people to read the text on the internet and to reflect upon its ‘inspiring and often poetic’ themes. The text is available on the home page of the Vatican website at www.vatican.va.
The document covers the full range of theological, liturgical and pastoral issues considered by the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2005, including what the Pope describes as the ‘serious effects’ of secularisation. This secularisation, he suggests, “has relegated the Christian faith to the margins of life as if it were irrelevant to everyday affairs. There is a need to rediscover that Jesus Christ is not just a private conviction or an abstract idea, but a real person … capable of renewing the life of every man and woman” (#77). “In the Eucharist,” he explains, “Jesus does not give us a ‘thing’, but himself” (#7).
The Pope goes on to say that because of participation in the Eucharist: “we cannot remain passive before certain processes of globalisation which not infrequently increase the gap between the rich and the poor worldwide” (#90). The Eucharist “challenges humanity’s conscience … The food of truth demands that we denounce inhumane situations in which people starve to death because of injustice and exploitation.”
Commenting on the relationship between the Eucharist and “the protection of creation,” the Pope states that “the world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilised simply as we see fit.” Rather, “it is part of God’s good plan … which commits us to working responsibly for the protection of creation” (#92).
In the letter Pope Benedict also emphasises the “inherent link” between the Eucharist and beauty. “Here the splendour of God’s glory surpasses all worldly beauty … it is, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth” (#35). This in turn, the Pope explains, “should make us attentive to every work of art placed at the service of the celebration” (#41), to the correspondence between the music and “the meaning of the mystery being celebrated” (#42) and to the need for adequate internal and external preparation, including adequate preparation of the homily (#46) and adequate spiritual preparation for the worthy reception of Sacramental Communion (#55).
Commenting at their meeting on today’s document, the Bishops said: “We are grateful to the Holy Father, and those who participated in the Synod, for providing the Church with such a rich source of further study and reflection on the Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. The document brings a new level of harmony and clarity to the Church’s presentation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council.
“As we approach the feast of our national patron, St Patrick, the Holy Father reminds us of the essential link between the Trinity, the Eucharist and the presence in our society of a vibrant Christian community marked by solidarity and the service of others, especially of the poor. These are values which the Irish people have always treasured as part of their Christian heritage from the time of Patrick. Their source is deepened and renewed by our well prepared and reverent participation in the beauty of the Eucharistic mystery.”
The Bishops concluded: “In the words of Pope Benedict: ‘The Eucharistic form of life can thus help foster a real change in the way we approach history and the world … It gives us renewed strength and courage to work tirelessly in the service of the civilisation of love.’ We appeal, therefore, to all Christian people in Ireland to rediscover their commitment to the sacrament of love as the source of our eternal hope.”
Notes for Editors
Ø A ‘Post-Synodal Exhortation’ is a document written by the Pope in which he offers his own reflections on the issues discussed at the recent Synod of Bishops, in this case the 2005 Synod on the theme of the ‘Eucharist as the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission.’
Ø The Irish Bishops were represented at the Synod by Archbishop Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Vice-President of the Irish Bishops Conference. The two Archbishops were accompanied by Bishop Donal Murray, Bishop of Limerick, as a theological advisor.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)