Sacramentum Caritatis

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APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION

SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS

OF THE HOLY FATHER
BENEDICT XVI

To the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful

On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission


< Part I | Part II | Part III >


INTRODUCTION

1. The sacrament of charity[1], the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that "greater" love which led him to "lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). Jesus did indeed love them "to the end" (Jn 13:1). In those words the Evangelist introduces Christ’s act of immense humility: before dying for us on the Cross, he tied a towel around himself and washed the feet of his disciples. In the same way, Jesus continues, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us "to the end," even to offering us his body and his blood. What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper! What wonder must the Eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts!


The food of truth


2. In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way. In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free (cf. Jn 8:32), Christ becomes for us the food of truth. With deep human insight, Saint Augustine clearly showed how we are moved spontaneously, and not by constraint, whenever we encounter something attractive and desirable. Asking himself what it is that can move us most deeply, the saintly Bishop went on to say: "What does our soul desire more passionately than truth?"[2] Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for ultimate and definitive truth. The Lord Jesus, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), speaks to our thirsting, pilgrim hearts, our hearts yearning for the source of life, our hearts longing for truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth in person, drawing the world to himself. "Jesus is the lodestar of human freedom: without him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated and reduced to empty caprice. With him, freedom finds itself."[3] In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us in particular the truth about the love which is the very essence of God. It is this evangelical truth which challenges each of us and our whole being. For this reason, the Church, which finds in the Eucharist the very centre of her life, is constantly concerned to proclaim to all, opportune importune (cf. 2 Tim 4:2), that God is love.[4] Precisely because Christ has become for us the food of truth, the Church turns to every man and woman, inviting them freely to accept God’s gift.


The development of the Eucharistic rite


3. If we consider the bimillenary history of God’s Church, guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we can gratefully admire the orderly development of the ritual forms in which we commemorate the event of our salvation. From the varied forms of the early centuries, still resplendent in the rites of the Ancient Churches of the East, up to the spread of the Roman rite; from the clear indications of the Council of Trent and the Missal of Saint Pius V to the liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council: in every age of the Church’s history the Eucharistic celebration, as the source and summit of her life and mission, shines forth in the liturgical rite in all its richness and variety. The Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held from 2-23 October 2005 in the Vatican, gratefully acknowledged the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this rich history. In a particular way, the Synod Fathers acknowledged and reaffirmed the beneficial influence on the Church’s life of the liturgical renewal which began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council[5]. The Synod of Bishops was able to evaluate the reception of the renewal in the years following the Council. There were many expressions of appreciation. The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored. Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities.[6]


The Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist


4. We should also emphasize the relationship between the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist and the events which have taken place in the Church’s life in recent years. First of all, we should recall the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, with which my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, led the Church into the third Christian millennium. The Jubilee Year clearly had a significant Eucharistic dimension. Nor can we forget that the Synod of Bishops was preceded, and in some sense prepared for, by the Year of the Eucharist which John Paul II had, with great foresight, wanted the whole Church to celebrate. That year, which began with the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara in October 2004, ended on 23 October 2005, at the conclusion of the XI Synodal Assembly, with the canonization of five saints particularly distinguished for their eucharistic piety: Bishop Józef Bilczewski, Fathers Gaetano Catanoso, Zygmunt Gorazdowski and Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, and the Capuchin Fra Felice da Nicosia. Thanks to the teachings proposed by John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine[7] and to the helpful suggestions of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,[8] many initiatives were undertaken by Dioceses and various ecclesial groups in order to reawaken and increase Eucharistic faith, to improve the quality of Eucharistic celebration, to promote Eucharistic adoration and to encourage a practical solidarity which, starting from the Eucharist, would reach out to those in need. Finally, mention should be made of the significance of my venerable Predecessor’s last Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia[9], in which he left us a sure magisterial statement of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and a final testimony of the central place that this divine sacrament had in his own life.


The purpose of this Exhortation


5. This Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation seeks to take up the richness and variety of the reflections and proposals which emerged from the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – from the Lineamenta to the Propositiones, along the way of the Instrumentum Laboris, the Relationes ante and post disceptationem, the interventions of the Synod Fathers, the auditores and the fraternal delegates – and to offer some basic directions aimed at a renewed commitment to Eucharistic enthusiasm and fervor in the Church. Conscious of the immense patrimony of doctrine and discipline accumulated over the centuries with regard to this sacrament,[10] I wish here to endorse the wishes expressed by the Synod Fathers[11] by encouraging the Christian people to deepen their understanding of the relationship between the Eucharistic mystery, the liturgical action, and the new spiritual worship which derives from the Eucharist as the sacrament of charity. Consequently, I wish to set the present Exhortation alongside my first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, in which I frequently mentioned the sacrament of the Eucharist and stressed its relationship to Christian love, both of God and of neighbor: "God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape also became a term for the Eucharist: there God’s own agape comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us"[12]


PART ONE: THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY TO BE BELIEVED

"This is the work of God: that you believe in him whom he has sent" ('''Jn '''6:29)

The Church’s Eucharistic faith


6. "The mystery of faith!" With these words, spoken immediately after the words of consecration, the priest proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding. The Eucharist is a "mystery of faith" par excellence: "the sum and summary of our faith."[13] The Church’s faith is essentially a Eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God’s word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: "faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith."[14] For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church’s life: "thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!"[15] The more lively the Eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church’s very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord’s Eucharistic presence among his people.

The Blessed Trinity and the Eucharist

The bread come down from heaven


7. The first element of Eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, Trinitarian love. In Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, we find an illuminating expression in this regard: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:16-17). These words show the deepest source of God’s gift. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a "thing," but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus, after feeding the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fishes, says to those who had followed him to the synagogue of Capernaum: "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-33), and even identifies himself, his own flesh and blood, with that bread: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn 6:51). Jesus thus shows that he is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind.


A free gift of the Blessed Trinity


8. The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11). There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God’s breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life.[16] Jesus Christ, who "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God’s own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfillment of God’s promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The "mystery of faith" is thus a mystery of Trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: "If you see love, you see the Trinity."[17]

The Eucharist: Jesus the true Sacrificial lamb

The new and eternal covenant in the blood of the Lamb


9. The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), just before "giving up the Spirit," he utters the words: "it is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ’s obedience unto death, even death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God’s freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God’s Son (cf. Heb 7:27; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). As I have said elsewhere, "Christ’s death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form."[18] In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the "new and eternal covenant" in the shedding of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration.[19]


The institution of the Eucharist


10. This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own "exaltation." In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father’s plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus’ death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind’s definitive deliverance from evil.


Figura transit in veritatem


11. Jesus thus brings his own radical novum to the ancient Hebrew sacrificial meal. For us Christians, that meal no longer need be repeated. As the Church Fathers rightly say, figura transit in veritatem: the foreshadowing has given way to the truth itself. The ancient rite has been brought to fulfilment and definitively surpassed by the loving gift of the incarnate Son of God. The food of truth, Christ sacrificed for our sake, dat figuris terminum.[20] By his command to "do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament. The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his "hour." "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving."[21] Jesus "draws us into himself."[22] The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission," to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).

The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist

Jesus and the Holy Spirit


12. With his word and with the elements of bread and wine, the Lord himself has given us the essentials of this new worship. The Church, his Bride, is called to celebrate the eucharistic banquet daily in his memory. She thus makes the redeeming sacrifice of her Bridegroom a part of human history and makes it sacramentally present in every culture. This great mystery is celebrated in the liturgical forms which the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops in time and space.[23] We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries. The Paraclete, Christ’s first gift to those who believe,[24] already at work in Creation (cf. Gen 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Lk 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14). In the so-called "farewell discourse" reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. Jn 16:7). Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. Jn 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13). In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples. Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital centre which is the Eucharist.


The Holy Spirit and the Eucharistic celebration


13. Against this backdrop we can understand the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic celebration, particularly with regard to transubstantiation. An awareness of this is clearly evident in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catecheses, states that we "call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed".[25] Saint John Chrysostom too notes that the priest invokes the Holy Spirit when he celebrates the sacrifice:[26] like Elijah, the minister calls down the Holy Spirit so that "as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed".[27] The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the anaphora: along with the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, it contains the epiclesis, the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and the wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that "the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ".[28] The Spirit invoked by the celebrant upon the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar is the same Spirit who gathers the faithful "into one body" and makes of them a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father.[29]

The Eucharist and the Church

The Eucharist, causal principle of the Church


14. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus draws the faithful into his "hour;" he shows us the bond that he willed to establish between himself and us, between his own person and the Church. Indeed, in the sacrifice of the Cross, Christ gave birth to the Church as his Bride and his body. The Fathers of the Church often meditated on the relationship between Eve’s coming forth from the side of Adam as he slept (cf. Gen 2:21-23) and the coming forth of the new Eve, the Church, from the open side of Christ sleeping in death: from Christ’s pierced side, John recounts, there came forth blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34), the symbol of the sacraments.[30] A contemplative gaze "upon him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37) leads us to reflect on the causal connection between Christ’s sacrifice, the Eucharist and the Church. The Church "draws her life from the Eucharist".[31] Since the Eucharist makes present Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that "there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church’s very origins".[32] The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body. Hence, in the striking interplay between the Eucharist which builds up the Church, and the Church herself which "makes" the Eucharist,[33] the primary causality is expressed in the first formula: the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church’s ability to "make" the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ’s self-gift to her. Here we can see more clearly the meaning of Saint John’s words: "he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). We too, at every celebration of the Eucharist, confess the primacy of Christ’s gift. The causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church’s origins definitively discloses both the chronological and ontological priority of the fact that it was Christ who loved us "first." For all eternity he remains the one who loves us first.


The Eucharist and ecclesial communion


15. The Eucharist is thus constitutive of the Church’s being and activity. This is why Christian antiquity used the same words, Corpus Christi, to designate Christ’s body born of the Virgin Mary, his Eucharistic body and his ecclesial body.[34] This clear datum of the tradition helps us to appreciate the inseparability of Christ and the Church. The Lord Jesus, by offering himself in sacrifice for us, in his gift effectively pointed to the mystery of the Church. It is significant that the Second Eucharistic Prayer, invoking the Paraclete, formulates its prayer for the unity of the Church as follows: "may all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit." These words help us to see clearly how the res of the sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity of the faithful within ecclesial communion. The Eucharist is thus found at the root of the Church as a mystery of communion.[35]


The relationship between Eucharist and communio had already been pointed out by the Servant of God John Paul II in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. He spoke of the memorial of Christ as "the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church".[36] The unity of ecclesial communion is concretely manifested in the Christian communities and is renewed at the celebration of the Eucharist, which unites them and differentiates them in the particular Churches, "in quibus et ex quibus una et unica Ecclesia catholica exsistit".[37] The fact that the one Eucharist is celebrated in each Diocese around its own Bishop helps us to see how those particular Churches subsist in and ex Ecclesia. Indeed, "the oneness and indivisibility of the Eucharistic body of the Lord implies the oneness of his mystical body, which is the one and indivisible Church. From the Eucharistic center arises the necessary openness of every celebrating community, of every particular Church. By allowing itself to be drawn into the open arms of the Lord, it achieves insertion into his one and undivided body."[38] Consequently, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the individual members of the faithful find themselves in their Church, that is, in the Church of Christ. From this Eucharistic perspective, adequately understood, ecclesial communion is seen to be catholic by its very nature.[39] An emphasis on this Eucharistic basis of ecclesial communion can also contribute greatly to the ecumenical dialogue with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are not in full communion with the See of Peter. The Eucharist objectively creates a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, which have preserved the authentic and integral nature of the Eucharistic mystery. At the same time, emphasis on the ecclesial character of the Eucharist can become an important element of the dialogue with the Communities of the Reformed tradition.[40]

The Eucharist and the Sacraments

The sacramentality of the Church


16. The Second Vatican Council recalled that "all the sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most blessed Eucharist is contained the entire spiritual wealth of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and our living bread, who gives life to humanity through his flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life by the Holy Spirit. Thus men and women are invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation in union with Christ."[41] This close relationship of the Eucharist with the other sacraments and the Christian life can be most fully understood when we contemplate the mystery of the Church herself as a sacrament.[42] The Council in this regard stated that "the Church, in Christ, is a sacrament – a sign and instrument – of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race."[43] To quote Saint Cyprian, as "a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,"[44] she is the sacrament of Trinitarian communion.


The fact that the Church is the "universal sacrament of salvation"[45] shows how the sacramental economy ultimately determines the way that Christ, the one Savior, through the Spirit, reaches our lives in all their particularity. The Church receives and at the same time expresses what she herself is in the seven sacraments, thanks to which God’s grace concretely influences the lives of the faithful, so that their whole existence, redeemed by Christ, can become an act of worship pleasing to God. From this perspective, I would like here to draw attention to some elements brought up by the Synod Fathers which may help us to grasp the relationship of each of the sacraments to the Eucharistic mystery.

I. The Eucharist and Christian initiation

The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation


17. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized.[46] It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ,[47] incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ’s Body (1 Cor 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world.[48] The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life.[49]


The order of the sacraments of initiation


18. In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East[50] and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults,[51] and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children.[52] Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops’ Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically Eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).


Initiation, the ecclesial community and the family


19. It should be kept in mind that the whole of Christian initiation is a process of conversion undertaken with God’s help and with constant reference to the ecclesial community, both when an adult is seeking entry into the Church, as happens in places of first evangelization and in many secularized regions, and when parents request the sacraments for their children. In this regard, I would like to call particular attention to the relationship between Christian initiation and the family. In pastoral work it is always important to make Christian families part of the process of initiation. Receiving Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion are key moments not only for the individual receiving them but also for the entire family, which should be supported in its educational role by the various elements of the ecclesial community.[53] Here I would emphasize the importance of First Holy Communion. For many of the faithful, this day continues to be memorable as the moment when, even if in a rudimentary way, they first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus. Parish pastoral programs should make the most of this highly significant moment.

II. The Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Their intrinsic relationship


20. The Synod Fathers rightly stated that a love for the Eucharist leads to a growing appreciation of the sacrament of Reconciliation.[54] Given the connection between these sacraments, an authentic catechesis on the meaning of the Eucharist must include the call to pursue the path of penance (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). We know that the faithful are surrounded by a culture that tends to eliminate the sense of sin[55] and to promote a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental communion worthily.[56] The loss of a consciousness of sin always entails a certain superficiality in the understanding of God’s love. Bringing out the elements within the rite of Mass that express consciousness of personal sin and, at the same time, of God’s mercy, can prove most helpful to the faithful.[57] Furthermore, the relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation reminds us that sin is never a purely individual affair; it always damages the ecclesial communion that we have entered through Baptism. For this reason, Reconciliation, as the Fathers of the Church would say, is laboriosus quidam baptismus;[58] they thus emphasized that the outcome of the process of conversion is also the restoration of full ecclesial communion, expressed in a return to the Eucharist.[59]


Some pastoral concerns


21. The Synod recalled that Bishops have the pastoral duty of promoting within their Dioceses a reinvigorated catechesis on the conversion born of the Eucharist, and of encouraging frequent confession among the faithful. All priests should dedicate themselves with generosity, commitment and competency to administering the sacrament of Reconciliation.[60] In this regard, it is important that the confessionals in our churches should be clearly visible expressions of the importance of this sacrament. I ask pastors to be vigilant with regard to the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and to limit the practice of general absolution exclusively to the cases permitted,[61] since individual absolution is the only form intended for ordinary use.[62] Given the need to rediscover sacramental forgiveness, there ought to be a Penitentiary in every Diocese.[63] Finally, a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead, can be helpful for a renewed appreciation of the relationship between the Eucharist and Reconciliation. By this means the faithful obtain "remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven."[64] The use of indulgences helps us to understand that by our efforts alone we would be incapable of making reparation for the wrong we have done, and that the sins of each individual harm the whole community. Furthermore, the practice of indulgences, which involves not only the doctrine of Christ’s infinite merits, but also that of the communion of the saints, reminds us "how closely we are united to each other in Christ ... and how the supernatural life of each can help others."[65] Since the conditions for gaining an indulgence include going to confession and receiving sacramental communion, this practice can effectively sustain the faithful on their journey of conversion and in rediscovering the centrality of the Eucharist in the Christian life.

III. The Eucharist and the Anointing of the sick

22. Jesus did not only send his disciples forth to heal the sick (cf. Mt 10:8; Lk 9:2, 10:9); he also instituted a specific sacrament for them: the Anointing of the Sick.[66] The Letter of James attests to the presence of this sacramental sign in the early Christian community (cf. 5:14-16). If the Eucharist shows how Christ’s sufferings and death have been transformed into love, the Anointing of the Sick, for its part, unites the sick with Christ’s self-offering for the salvation of all, so that they too, within the mystery of the communion of saints, can participate in the redemption of the world. The relationship between these two sacraments becomes clear in situations of serious illness: "In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum."[67] On their journey to the Father, communion in the Body and Blood of Christ appears as the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection: "Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn 6:54). Since viaticum gives the sick a glimpse of the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, its administration should be readily provided for.[68] Attentive pastoral care shown to those who are ill brings great spiritual benefit to the entire community, since whatever we do to one of the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus himself (cf. Mt 25:40).

IV. The Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders

In persona Christi capitis


23. The intrinsic relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders clearly emerges from Jesus’ own words in the Upper Room: "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19). On the night before he died, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and at the same time established the priesthood of the New Covenant. He is priest, victim and altar: the mediator between God the Father and his people (cf. Heb 5:5-10), the victim of atonement (cf. 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10) who offers himself on the altar of the Cross. No one can say "this is my body" and "this is the cup of my blood" except in the name and in the person of Christ, the one high priest of the new and eternal Covenant (cf. Heb 8-9). Earlier meetings of the Synod of Bishops had considered the question of the ordained priesthood, both with regard to the nature of the ministry[69] and the formation of candidates.[70] Here, in the light of the discussion that took place during the last Synod, I consider it important to recall several important points about the relationship between the sacrament of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. First of all, we need to stress once again that the connection between Holy Orders and the Eucharist is seen most clearly at Mass, when the Bishop or priest presides in the person of Christ the Head.


The Church teaches that priestly ordination is the indispensable condition for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.[71] Indeed, "in the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, High Priest of the redemptive sacrifice."[72] Certainly the ordained minister also acts "in the name of the whole Church, when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice."[73] As a result, priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality. I encourage the clergy always to see their Eucharistic ministry as a humble service offered to Christ and his Church. The priesthood, as Saint Augustine said, is amoris officium,[74] it is the office of the good shepherd, who offers his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:14-15).


The Eucharist and priestly celibacy


24. The Synod Fathers wished to emphasize that the ministerial priesthood, through ordination, calls for complete configuration to Christ. While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches, there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate. These Churches also greatly esteem the decision of many priests to embrace celibacy. This choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God.[75] The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the Cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church. It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ’s own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride. In continuity with the great ecclesial tradition, with the Second Vatican Council[76] and with my predecessors in the papacy,[77] I reaffirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition. Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself.


The clergy shortage and the pastoral care of vocations


25. In the light of the connection between the sacrament of Holy Orders and the Eucharist, the Synod considered the difficult situation that has arisen in various Dioceses which face a shortage of priests. This happens not only in some areas of first evangelization, but also in many countries of long-standing Christian tradition. Certainly a more equitable distribution of clergy would help to solve the problem. Efforts need to be made to encourage a greater awareness of this situation at every level. Bishops should involve Institutes of Consecrated Life and the new ecclesial groups in their pastoral needs, while respecting their particular charisms, and they should invite the clergy to become more open to serving the Church wherever there is need, even if this calls for sacrifice.[78] The Synod also discussed pastoral initiatives aimed at promoting, especially among the young, an attitude of interior openness to a priestly calling. The situation cannot be resolved by purely practical decisions. On no account should Bishops react to real and understandable concerns about the shortage of priests by failing to carry out adequate vocational discernment, or by admitting to seminary formation and ordination candidates who lack the necessary qualities for priestly ministry.[79] An insufficiently formed clergy, admitted to ordination without the necessary discernment, will not easily be able to offer a witness capable of evoking in others the desire to respond generously to Christ’s call. The pastoral care of vocations needs to involve the entire Christian community in every area of its life.[80] Obviously, this pastoral work on all levels also includes exploring the matter with families, which are often indifferent or even opposed to the idea of a priestly vocation. Families should generously embrace the gift of life and bring up their children to be open to doing God’s will. In a word, they must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is.


Gratitude and hope


26. Finally, we need to have ever greater faith and hope in God’s providence. Even if there is a shortage of priests in some areas, we must never lose confidence that Christ continues to inspire men to leave everything behind and to dedicate themselves totally to celebrating the sacred mysteries, preaching the Gospel and ministering to the flock. In this regard, I wish to express the gratitude of the whole Church for all those Bishops and priests who carry out their respective missions with fidelity, devotion and zeal. Naturally, the Church’s gratitude also goes to deacons, who receive the laying on of hands "not for priesthood but for service."[81] As the Synod Assembly recommended, I offer a special word of thanks to those Fidei Donum priests who work faithfully and generously at building up the community by proclaiming the word of God and breaking the Bread of Life, devoting all their energy to serving the mission of the Church.[82] Let us thank God for all those priests who have suffered even to the sacrifice of their lives in order to serve Christ. The eloquence of their example shows what it means to be a priest to the end. Theirs is a moving witness that can inspire many young people to follow Christ and to expend their lives for others, and thus to discover true life.

V. The Eucharist and Matrimony

The Eucharist, a nuptial sacrament


27. The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time.[83] Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: "The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride."[84] Moreover, "the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist."[85] The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the Eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32). The mutual consent that husband and wife exchange in Christ, which establishes them as a community of life and love, also has a Eucharistic dimension. Indeed, in the theology of Saint Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for his Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of his "marriage" with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist. For this reason the Church manifests her particular spiritual closeness to all those who have built their family on the sacrament of Matrimony.[86] The family – the domestic Church[87] – is a primary sphere of the Church’s life, especially because of its decisive role in the Christian education of children.[88] In this context, the Synod also called for an acknowledgment of the unique mission of women in the family and in society, a mission that needs to be defended, protected and promoted.[89] Marriage and motherhood represent essential realities which must never be denigrated.


The Eucharist and the unicity of marriage


28. In the light of this intrinsic relationship between marriage, the family and the Eucharist, we can turn to several pastoral problems. The indissoluble, exclusive and faithful bond uniting Christ and the Church, which finds sacramental expression in the Eucharist, corresponds to the basic anthropological fact that man is meant to be definitively united to one woman and vice versa (cf. Gen 2:24, Mt 19:5). With this in mind, the Synod of Bishops addressed the question of pastoral practice regarding people who come to the Gospel from cultures in which polygamy is practiced. Those living in this situation who open themselves to Christian faith need to be helped to integrate their life-plan into the radical newness of Christ. During the catechumenate, Christ encounters them in their specific circumstances and calls them to embrace the full truth of love, making whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to arrive at perfect ecclesial communion. The Church accompanies them with a pastoral care that is gentle yet firm,[90] above all by showing them the light shed by the Christian mysteries on nature and on human affections.


The Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage


29. If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God’s love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires.[91] There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church’s pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved.[92] The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, Eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.


When legitimate doubts exist about the validity of the prior sacramental marriage, the necessary investigation must be carried out to establish if these are well-founded. Consequently there is a need to ensure, in full respect for canon law[93], the presence of local ecclesiastical tribunals, their pastoral character, and their correct and prompt functioning.[94] Each Diocese should have a sufficient number of persons with the necessary preparation, so that the ecclesiastical tribunals can operate in an expeditious manner. I repeat that "it is a grave obligation to bring the Church’s institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful".[95] At the same time, pastoral care must not be understood as if it were somehow in conflict with the law. Rather, one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but "a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful".[96] Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God’s law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, taking care to observe the Church’s established and approved practice in this regard. This path, if it is to be possible and fruitful, must be supported by pastors and by adequate ecclesial initiatives, nor can it ever involve the blessing of these relations, lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage.[97]


Given the complex cultural context which the Church today encounters in many countries, the Synod also recommended devoting maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the sacrament of Matrimony. Serious discernment in this matter will help to avoid situations where impulsive decisions or superficial reasons lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they are then incapable of honoring.[98] The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.

The Eucharist and Eschatology

The Eucharist: a gift to men and women on their journey


30. If it is true that the sacraments are part of the Church’s pilgrimage through history[99] towards the full manifestation of the victory of the risen Christ, it is also true that, especially in the liturgy of the Eucharist, they give us a real foretaste of the eschatological fulfillment for which every human being and all creation are destined (cf. Rom 8:19ff.). Man is created for that true and eternal happiness which only God’s love can give. But our wounded freedom would go astray were it not already able to experience something of that future fulfillment. Moreover, to move forward in the right direction, we all need to be guided towards our final goal. That goal is Christ himself, the Lord who conquered sin and death, and who makes himself present to us in a special way in the Eucharistic celebration. Even though we remain "aliens and exiles" in this world (1 Pet 2:11), through faith we already share in the fullness of risen life. The Eucharistic banquet, by disclosing its powerful eschatological dimension, comes to the aid of our freedom as we continue our journey.


The eschatological banquet


31. Reflecting on this mystery, we can say that Jesus’ coming responded to an expectation present in the people of Israel, in the whole of humanity and ultimately in creation itself. By his self-gift, he objectively inaugurated the eschatological age. Christ came to gather together the scattered People of God (cf. Jn 11:52) and clearly manifested his intention to gather together the community of the covenant, in order to bring to fulfillment the promises made by God to the fathers of old (cf. Jer 23:3; Lk 1:55, 70). In the calling of the Twelve, which is to be understood in relation to the twelve tribes of Israel, and in the command he gave them at the Last Supper, before his redemptive passion, to celebrate his memorial, Jesus showed that he wished to transfer to the entire community which he had founded the task of being, within history, the sign and instrument of the eschatological gathering that had its origin in him. Consequently, every Eucharistic celebration sacramentally accomplishes the eschatological gathering of the People of God. For us, the Eucharistic banquet is a real foretaste of the final banquet foretold by the prophets (cf. Is 25:6-9) and described in the New Testament as "the marriage-feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7-9), to be celebrated in the joy of the communion of saints.[100]


Prayer for the dead


32. The Eucharistic celebration, in which we proclaim that Christ has died and risen, and will come again, is a pledge of the future glory in which our bodies too will be glorified. Celebrating the memorial of our salvation strengthens our hope in the resurrection of the body and in the possibility of meeting once again, face to face, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. In this context, I wish, together with the Synod Fathers, to remind all the faithful of the importance of prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Mass for them, so that, once purified, they can come to the beatific vision of God.[101] A rediscovery of the eschatological dimension inherent in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored, will help sustain us on our journey and comfort us in the hope of glory (cf. Rom 5:2; Tit 2:13).

The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary

33. From the relationship between the Eucharist and the individual sacraments, and from the eschatological significance of the sacred mysteries, the overall shape of the Christian life emerges, a life called at all times to be an act of spiritual worship, a self-offering pleasing to God. Although we are all still journeying towards the complete fulfillment of our hope, this does not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God’s gifts to us have found their perfect fulfillment in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us, on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste.


In Mary most holy, we also see perfectly fulfilled the "sacramental" way that God comes down to meet his creatures and involves them in his saving work. From the Annunciation to Pentecost, Mary of Nazareth appears as someone whose freedom is completely open to God’s will. Her immaculate conception is revealed precisely in her unconditional docility to God’s word. Obedient faith in response to God’s work shapes her life at every moment. A virgin attentive to God’s word, she lives in complete harmony with his will; she treasures in her heart the words that come to her from God and, piecing them together like a mosaic, she learns to understand them more deeply (cf. Lk 2:19, 51); Mary is the great Believer who places herself confidently in God’s hands, abandoning herself to his will.[102] This mystery deepens as she becomes completely involved in the redemptive mission of Jesus. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, "the blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at the Cross, in keeping with the divine plan (cf. Jn 19:25), suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son, associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim who was born of her. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus, dying on the Cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: ’Woman, behold your Son."’[103] From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary is the one who received the Word, made flesh within her and then silenced in death. It is she, lastly, who took into her arms the lifeless body of the one who truly loved his own "to the end" (Jn 13:1).


Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. The Synod Fathers rightly declared that "Mary inaugurates the Church’s participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer."[104] She is the Immaculata, who receives God’s gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist.


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  1. Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, q. 73, a. 3.
  2. Saint Augustine, In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 26,5: PL 35, 1609.
  3. Benedict XVI, Address to Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (10 February 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 255.
  4. Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops (1 June 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, 2 June 2006, p. 5.
  5. Cf. Propositio 2.
  6. I am referring here to the need for a hermeneutic of continuity also with regard to the correct interpretation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council: cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 44-45.
  7. Cf. AAS 97 (2005), 337-352.
  8. The Year of the Eucharist: Suggestions and Proposals (15 October 2004): L'Osservatore Romano, 15 October 2004, Supplement.
  9. Cf. AAS 95 (2003), 433-475. Also, the Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Redemptionis Sacramentum (25 March 2004): AAS 96 (2004), 549-601, expressly desired by John Paul II.
  10. To name only the more important documents: Ecumenical Council of Trent, Doctrina et canones de ss. Missae sacrificio, DS 1738-1759; Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter Mirae Caritatis (28 May 1902): ASS (1903), 115-136; Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei (20 November 1947): AAS 39 (1947), 521-595; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei (3 September 1965): AAS 57 (1965), 753-774; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003): AAS 95 (2003), 433-475; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium (25 May 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 539-573; Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (28 March 2001): AAS 93 (2001), 685-726.
  11. Cf. Propositio 1.
  12. No. 14: AAS 98 (2006), 229.
  13. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1327.
  14. Propositio 16.
  15. Benedict XVI, Homily at the Mass of Installation in the Cathedral of Rome (7 May 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 752.
  16. Cf. Propositio 4.
  17. De Trinitate, VIII, 8, 12: CCL 50, 287.
  18. Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 12: AAS 98 (2006), 228.
  19. Cf. Propositio 3.
  20. Roman Breviary, Hymn for the Office of Readings of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
  21. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 13: AAS 98 (2006), 228.
  22. Benedict XVI, Homily at Marienfeld Esplanade (21 August 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 891-892.
  23. Cf. Propositio 3.
  24. Cf. Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV.
  25. Cat. XXIII, 7: PG 33, 1114ff.
  26. Cf. De Sacerdotio, VI, 4: PG 48, 681.
  27. Ibid., III, 4: PG 48, 642.
  28. Propositio 22.
  29. Cf. Propositio 42: "This Eucharistic encounter takes place in the Holy Spirit, who transforms and sanctifies us. He re- awakens in the disciple the firm desire to proclaim boldly to others all that he has heard and experienced, to bring them to the same encounter with Christ. Thus the disciple, sent forth by the Church, becomes open to a mission without frontiers."
  30. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 3; for an example, see: Saint John Chrysostom, Catechesis 3, 13-19: SC 50, 174-177.
  31. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 1: AAS 95 (2003), 433.
  32. Ibid., 21: AAS 95 (2003), 447.
  33. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 20: AAS 71 (1979), 309-316; Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 4: AAS 72 (1980), 119-121.
  34. Cf. Propositio 5.
  35. Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 80, a. 4.
  36. No. 38: AAS 95 (2003), 458.
  37. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
  38. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11: AAS 85 (1993), 844-845.
  39. Propositio 5: "The term ‘catholic' expresses the universality deriving from the unity that the Eucharist, celebrated in each Church, fosters and builds up. The particular Churches in the universal Church thus have, in the Eucharist, the duty to make visible their own unity and diversity. This bond of fraternal love allows the Trinitarian communion to become apparent. The Councils and Synods express in history this fraternal aspect of the Church."
  40. Cf. ibid.
  41. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5.
  42. Cf. Propositio 14.
  43. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
  44. De Orat. Dom., 23: PL 4, 553.
  45. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 48, cf. ibid., 9.
  46. Cf. Propositio 13.
  47. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 7.
  48. Cf. ibid., 11; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad Gentes, 9, 13.
  49. Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 7: AAS 72 (1980), 124-127; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5.
  50. Cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 710.
  51. Cf. Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults, General Introduction, 34-36.
  52. Cf. Rite of Baptism for Children, Introduction, 18-19.
  53. Cf. Propositio 15.
  54. Cf. Propositio 7; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 36: AAS 95 (2003), 457-458.
  55. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), 18: AAS 77 (1985), 224-228.
  56. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1385.
  57. For example, the Confiteor, or the words of the priest and people before receiving Communion: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." Not insignificantly does the liturgy also prescribe certain very beautiful prayers for the priest, handed down by tradition, which speak of the need for forgiveness, as, for example, the one recited quietly before inviting the faithful to sacramental communion: "By the mystery of your body and blood, free me from all my sins and from every evil. Keep me always faithful to your teachings and never let me be parted from you."
  58. Cf. Saint John Damascene, Exposition of the Faith, IV, 9: PG 94, 1124C; Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Oratio 39, 17: PG 36, 356A; Ecumenical Council of Trent, Doctrina de sacramento paenitentiae, Chapter 2: DS 1672.
  59. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), 30: AAS 77 (1985), 256-257.
  60. Cf. Propositio 7.
  61. Cf. John Paul II, Motu Proprio Misericordia Dei (7 April 2002): AAS 94 (2002), 452-459.
  62. Together with the Synod Fathers I wish to note that the non-sacramental penitential services mentioned in the ritual of the sacrament of Reconciliation can be helpful for increasing the spirit of conversion and of communion in Christian communities, thereby preparing hearts for the celebration of the sacrament: cf. Propositio 7.
  63. Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 508.
  64. Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (1 January 1967), Norms, No. 1: AAS 59 (1967), 21
  65. Ibid., 9: AAS 59 (1967), 18-19.
  66. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1499-1532.
  67. Ibid., 1524.
  68. Cf. Propositio 44.
  69. Cf. Synod of Bishops, Second General Assembly, Document on the Ministerial Priesthood Ultimis Temporibus (30 November 1971): AAS 63 (1971), 898-942.
  70. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 42-69: AAS 84 (1992), 729-778.
  71. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 10; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on Certain Questions Concerning the Minister of the Eucharist Sacerdotium Ministeriale (6 August 1983): AAS 75 (1983), 1001-1009.
  72. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1548.
  73. Ibid., 1552.
  74. Cf. In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 123, 5: PL 35, 1967.
  75. Cf. Propositio 11.
  76. Cf. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16.
  77. Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia (1 August 1959): AAS 51 (1959), 545-579; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Sacerdotalis Coelibatus (24 June 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 657-697; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 29: AAS 84 (1992), 703-705; Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, 23 December 2006, p. 6.
  78. Cf. Propositio 11.
  79. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Priestly Formation Optatam Totius, 6; Code of Canon Law, can. 241, § 1 and can. 1029; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 342 § 1 and can. 758; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 11, 34, 50: AAS 84 (1992), 673-675; 712-714; 746-748; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests Dives Ecclesiae (31 March 1994), 58; Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders (4 November 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 1007-1013.
  80. Cf. Propositio 12; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 41: AAS 84 (1992), 726-729.
  81. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 29.
  82. Cf. Propositio 38.
  83. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 57: AAS 74 (1982), 149-150.
  84. Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988), 26: AAS 80 (1988), 1715-1716.
  85. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1617.
  86. Cf. Propositio 8.
  87. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11.
  88. Cf. Propositio 8.
  89. Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988): AAS 80 (1988), 1653-1729; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World (31 May 2004): AAS 96 (2004), 671-687.
  90. Cf. Propositio 9.
  91. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1640.
  92. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 184- 186; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful Annus Internationalis Familiae (14 September 1994): AAS 86 (1994), 974-979.
  93. Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Instruction on the Norms to be Observed at Ecclesiastical Tribunals in Matrimonial Proceedings Dignitas Connubii (25 January 2005), Vatican City, 2005.
  94. Cf. Propositio 40.
  95. Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for the Inauguration of the Judicial Year (28 January 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 138.
  96. Cf. Propositio 40.
  97. Cf. ibid.
  98. Cf. ibid.
  99. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 48.
  100. Cf. Propositio 3.
  101. Here I would recall the words filled with hope and consolation found in Eucharistic Prayer II: "Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again. Bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence."
  102. Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily (8 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 15-16.
  103. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 58.
  104. Propositio 4.
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