The Synod of Bishops

Cardinal Scola Outlines Topics of Discussion on Eucharist

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2005 ( The most crucial issue for the Synod of Bishops is to rediscover the "Eucharistic amazement" that helped to propel the Christian faith worldwide, said the assembly's general relator.

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice made that point today when summarizing the "report before the discussion" which he presented in the Synod Hall to 256 synodal fathers, 12 delegates of other Christian confessions, and the auditors and experts attending the assembly.

The history of the Church, he said in a subsequent press conference, is made up of thousands and thousands of men and women of "whatever generation, class, race or culture," who left their homes on Sundays to eat the Bread of Christ.

The patriarch of Venice read his report in Latin -- the bishops were able to follow it thanks to simultaneous translation. Given its length, the cardinal read only a quarter of his address, as he told reporters later.

His objective was to report the most significant arguments of the "instrumentum laboris," or working document, which includes the issues the synod will address, under the overall theme "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

As a participant in the synod, Benedict XVI also heard Cardinal Scola's report.

"The difficulties lie in how to rekindle amazement, generated by the Eucharist, in the many non-practicing baptized persons," Cardinal Scola acknowledged.


"Therefore, the announcement and the personal and community testimony of Jesus Christ to all men are necessary to incite vital and open Christian communities," he said. "Outside of this Eucharistic and sacramental communion the Church is not fully constituted: The Eucharist makes the Church."

From this conviction, the cardinal deduced, among other things, the reason why "Eucharistic Communion" requires "ecclesial communion," which led him to pose the question of "intercommunion" -- the possibility that non-Catholic persons might receive communion in the Eucharist -- as one of the issues that will be studied further by the assembly.

With Cardinal Scola at the press conference was Coadjutor Bishop Pierre-Antoine Paulo of Port-et-Paix, Haiti. He lamented that the topics of the working document did not give more space to the relationship between ecumenism and Communion.

"I would have liked also that in the Synod an ecumenical celebration take place to make us understand that we are walking towards unity," Bishop Paulo said.

For Cardinal Scola, the Eucharist is a "gift" of Jesus, therefore, it is "neither right nor possession, and he presented this perspective to address the ever more extended practice of "Sunday assemblies in absence of a presbyter." Such assemblies are common in those countries where the lack of priests is particularly acute. In general, a lay person prepared by the diocese offers a commentary on the Word and sometimes distributes Communion.

Criteria sought

From this perspective he also addressed the topic of the "viri probati," namely the request to ordain married faithful, of proven faith and virtues.

For the cardinal, there is no ideal number of priests, as the Church is not a "'business' which should be equipped with a determined quota of team managers." Instead, Cardinal Scola thinks the synod should propose criteria "for an adequate distribution of clergy in the world," something he considers "very useful."

Also present at the press conference was Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, in the Philippines, who said that in his country the disproportion between priests and Catholics is enormous, something which leads many presbyters to celebrate up to nine Masses on Sundays.

The prelate acknowledged that his country's bishops do not have an answer for this problem. "We came to hear proposals, in particular of bishops from countries with similar problems, such as those from Latin America," he said.

The last part of the report highlighted anthropological, cosmological and social dimensions of the Eucharist, in particular the inseparable links between the Eucharist and evangelization.

The discussions in the Synod Hall began this afternoon. Each participant was able to address the assembly for six minutes. From 6 to 7 p.m., for the first time in the synods, "free interventions" took place, allowing bishops to speak without having to address a predetermined topic.


Ordaining the Married Isn't an Answer, Says Cardinal

To the question of whether the problem of shortages of priests can be solved by ordaining married men, a key cardinal answered "no."

Cardinal Angelo Scola gave that response today at the first session of the Synod of Bishops, although he said the topic calls for further study. In setting forth the topics that will be discussed this week, the general relator of the synodal assembly said that this proposal has been made in some environments, according to the principle "the salvation of souls is the supreme law."

"The request is often accompanied by the positive recognition of the validity of the age-old discipline of priestly celibacy," said the patriarch of Venice in his "report before the discussion."

These same persons, he observed, affirm that this law should not "impede that the Church be equipped with an adequate number of ordained ministers, when the scarcity of candidates to celibate priesthood is assuming extremely grave proportions."

The cardinal considered it superfluous to reiterate "the profound theological motives which have led the Latin Church to unite the conferring of ministerial priesthood to the charism of celibacy."

Instead, he posed this question: "Is this choice and this praxis pastorally valid, even in extreme cases such as those mentioned above?" In some countries, remote Christian communities only have Sunday Mass. In parts of the Philippines, some priests celebrate up to nine Masses on a Sunday.

"Being intimately tied to the Eucharist, ordained priesthood participates in its nature of a gift and cannot be the object of a right. If it is a gift, ordained priesthood asks to be constantly requested for," responded Cardinal Scola, 63.

In fact, the cardinal continued, it "has become very difficult to ascertain the ideal number of priests in the Church, from the moment in which this is not a 'business' which should be equipped with a determined quota of team managers."

At the practical level, he added, "the urgency, which cannot be postponed, of the 'salus animarum' [salvation of souls] urges us to reiterate strongly, especially in this see, the responsibility each particular Church has with regard to the universal Church, and for that reason also to the other particular Churches."

"Therefore, the proposals made in the synodal assembly to identify the criteria for an adequate distribution of clergy in the world, will be very useful," the relator acknowledged. "In this area, the path to be walked seems as yet very long."


Question of Communion for the Remarried Arises

Whether the divorced-and-remarried can receive Communion is one of the issues touched on in the "report before the discussion" presented at the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.

Cardinal Angelo Scola, the general relator of the synod, today mentioned "the diffused tendency of the divorced-and-remarried to Eucharistic Communion, beyond what the teaching of the Church indicates."

The patriarch of Venice acknowledged that at the base of this tendency "there is not only superficiality. Beyond the considerable diverse situations of the various continents, it should be recognized that -- especially in countries of a long Christian tradition -- there are not a few baptized who have been united in sacramental matrimony through a mechanical adherence to tradition."

"Many of these get divorced and remarried" without annulments, the cardinal continued. "Following the practice of Christian life, some of these manifest serious unease and at times considerable suffering when faced with the fact that the union after the marriage blocks their full participation in sacramental reconciliation and Eucharistic Communion."

Recalling the teachings of Pope John Paul II's postsynodal exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," the cardinal said: "Those divorced and remarried need to be supported by the whole Christian community in the knowledge that they are not excluded from ecclesial communion. Their participation in the Eucharistic celebration permits, in every case, that spiritual communion, if correctly lived, which mirrors the sacrifice of Jesus Christ himself."

Sacramental bond

"On the other hand," the relator observed, "the teaching of the magisterium on this theme is not only prone to avoid the spreading of a mentality contrary to the indissolubility of marriage and the scandal of the People of God. Instead, it places us in front of the recognition of the objective bond that unites the sacrament of the Eucharist with the entire life of the Christian, and, in particular, with the sacrament of marriage.

"In fact, the unity of the Church, which is always a gift of her spouse, continuously springs forth from the Eucharist. Therefore, in Christian matrimony, due to the sacramental gift of the Spirit, the conjugal bond, in its public, faithful, indissoluble and fruitful nature, is intrinsically connected to Eucharistic unity between Christ the Bridegroom and the Church as Bride."

The cardinal added: "The mutual consent that husband and wife exchange in Christ and make them a community of conjugal life and love has, so to speak, a Eucharistic form."

According to Cardinal Scola, the synodal assembly will have to delve further, however, into "the complex and diversified cases in order to verify the hypothesis of nullity of canonical marriage."

Such verification, he said, should aim to "respect the public, ecclesial and social nature of marital consent."


"Therefore, the recognition of marital nullity must imply an objective instance, which cannot be lowered to the spouses' individual consciences, not even when supported by the opinion of an enlightened spiritual guide," the cardinal insisted.

Precisely because of this, "we must continue in the work of rethinking the nature and the actions of ecclesiastic tribunals, that they may be ever more an expression of the normal pastoral life of the local Church," noted the patriarch.

"Beyond the continuous vigilance about times and costs, one should consider the juridical figures and procedures, simplified and more efficiently responding to pastoral care. There is no lack of significant experiences in regard to this in the various dioceses. The synodal fathers, in this same assembly, will have the opportunity to make known others," he suggested.

"In any case, ordinary pastoral action in remote, close and immediate preparation of the engaged for Christian matrimony remains decisive, as well as the daily accompaniment to the life of the families within the grand ecclesial home," emphasized Cardinal Scola.

He also noted the "appreciation and care for the many initiatives aimed at helping those divorced and remarried to live serenely within the Christian community, the sacrifice objectively required by their condition."


Intercommunion to Be Studied

Among the topics set forth for the debate of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist is that of "intercommunion" -- whether non-Catholic Christians may receive holy Communion.

In his "report before the discussion," the general relator, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, acknowledged that it is "a rather delicate pastoral problem" that enables one to understand better "the inseparable connection between the Eucharist and the Church."

"The causality of the Eucharist over the Church -- the Eucharist makes the Church -- is essential and a priority with respect to that of the Church over the Eucharist -- the Church makes the Eucharist," he clarified in this connection.

Recalling that there already are numerous studies on the matter, the cardinal pointed out above all "the substantial communion of faith between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church on the theme of the Eucharist and the priesthood -- communion that, through a major mutual study of the Eucharistic celebration and Divine Liturgy, is destined to grow."

"We should also welcome positively the new climate on the Eucharist in the ecclesial communities born at the time of the Reformation," the relator continued. "In different degrees and with few exceptions even these communities always underline the decisiveness of the Eucharist as the key element in dialogue and in ecumenical practice.

"On the basis of this and other data one can understand how, even after the pronouncements by the magisterium on this subject, this question is unceasingly asked: Can 'intercommunion' of the faithful belonging to different Churches and ecclesial communities constitute an adequate instrument to favor the path toward Christian unity?"

Integral faith

"The answer," Cardinal Scola said, "depends upon the careful consideration of the nature of the Eucharistic action in all its fullness as 'mysterium fidei.' In fact, Eucharistic celebration is by its nature the profession of integral faith in the Church.

"Only inasmuch as it realizes the full profession of apostolic faith in this mystery does the Eucharist make the Church. If it is the Eucharist that ensures the true unity of the Church, celebration or participation in the Eucharist that does not imply the respect of all the factors that concur to its fullness would end up, despite the best of intentions, by further dividing ecclesial communion and its origins. Therefore, intercommunion does not seem to be an adequate means to achieve Christian unity."

"This assertion on intercommunion does not exclude that, under special circumstances and with respect for the objective conditions, one may admit to the Eucharistic communion, as 'panis viatorum' [pilgrims' bread], individual persons belonging to Churches or ecclesial communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church," added the cardinal.

"In this case, the necessary rigor requires that we speak about Eucharistic hospitality," he explained. "We are in the presence of the pastoral solicitude of the Church that encounters a particular circumstance of need of a baptized faithful.

"In these cases the Catholic Church allows Eucharistic communion to a non-Catholic faithful if he asks for it spontaneously, manifesting adhesion to the Catholic faith and spiritually well-disposed."


The relator added: "The problems underlying the inadequate category of 'intercommunion' and the practice of Eucharistic hospitality require further reflection, starting from the intrinsic bond between the Eucharist and the Church, on the relationship between Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion."

The cardinal concluded explaining that "not being allowed to Eucharistic concelebration and Eucharistic communion by Christians from different Churches and ecclesial communities and the exceptional quality of Eucharistic hospitality, are not only the cause for suffering: Rather, they must represent the permanent prodding for the continuous and common search for the 'mysterium fidei' that requires all Christians to unity in the integral profession of faith."