Friday, October 21, 2005

Synod's final message

At a Friday morning meeting on October 21, the Synod fathers gave their endorsement to the final message, but also adopted numerous amendments to be incorporated into the final text, which will be released simultaneously in five different languages. The "message to the People of God" is one of two major documents produced by the Synod; the other is the set of propositions that will be submitted to Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news). While the propositions are traditionally not published, the Synod's message is released to the Catholic world at the conclusion of the assembly.

The Synod's message was drafted by a committee headed by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec. Originally drafted in French, with translations available into other languages, the text includes 26 paragraphs, including a conclusion, and runs to 17 pages in length. The text is intended to express the main themes of the Synod's deliberations, and in an effort to ensure the accuracy of the message, the Synod fathers considered more than 200 proposed amendments.

The message begins with salutations to the bishops, priests, religious, and laity of the Catholic world. Recalling how the Synod on the Eucharist was first summoned by Pope John Paul II (bio - news) and then confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI, the message explains that the assembly sought for ways to offer pastoral suggestions for enhancing Catholic devotion to the Eucharist.

The message indicates that the presence of representatives from the Eastern churches helped the Synod to recall the rich traditions of Eastern Christianity, and asks the faithful to pray for a recovery of full unity between the churches of East and West. The Synod calls attention to the suffering that afflicts many of the world's people, because of hunger, warfare, injustice, and terrorism. It also speaks of the dangers posed, particularly in the Western world, by secularization and relativism. The bishops say that the Eucharist offers the key to renewing the world.

While fully supporting the reforms of Vatican II, the Synod message acknowledges the widespread liturgical abuses that mar the life of the Church, and particularly the tendency of many priests to see themselves as "owners" of the Eucharistic liturgy. The document also recognizes a crisis in the failure of Catholics to make use of sacramental Confession, and even in the loss of a sense of sin in contemporary society. The Synod document recognizes that a shortage of priests is making it difficult for many of the faithful to experience the Eucharistic liturgy, and recalls the practice of "spiritual communion" for those who are unable to attend Mass. The bishops also take pains to express their concern for Catholics who are unable to receive the Eucharist because of irregular marital situations. And they urge families to be faithful in attending Sunday Mass.

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