|Eucharist: Living Bread for the Peace of the
The following Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of
God, approved by the Synod Fathers during the 20th General Congregation
held Friday, 21 October, at the conclusion of the 11th Ordinary General
Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, has been graciously provided by the
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests and
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. "Peace be with you!". In the Name of the Lord who appeared in the
Cenacle of Jerusalem on the evening of Easter, we repeat, "Peace be with
you!" (Jn 20:21). May the mystery of his death and Resurrection bring you
consolation and give meaning to the whole of your life! May he keep you
joyful and full of hope! For Christ is living in his Church, as he
promised (cf. Mt 28:20). He remains with us always until the end of the
world. He gives himself to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist,
along with the joy of loving as he loved. He commands us to share his
victorious love with our brothers and sisters of the whole world. This is
the joyful message that we proclaim to you, beloved brothers and sisters,
at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has again
gathered us as in the Cenacle, with Mary the Mother of God and our Mother,
to recall the gift par excellence of the Holy Eucharist.
2. Called to Rome by Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, and
confirmed by His Holiness Benedict XVI, we have come from the five
continents of the world to pray and reflect together on The Eucharist:
Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.
The goal of the Synod was to offer proposals to the Holy Father that
might help him to update and deepen the Eucharistic life of the Church. We
have been able to experience what the Holy Eucharist has been from the
very beginning: one faith and one Church, nourished by one bread of life,
in visible communion with the Successor of Peter.
3. The fraternal sharing among the Bishops, auditors and also
ecumenical representatives, has renewed our conviction that the Holy
Eucharist animates and transforms the life of the particular Churches of
the East and West, as well as the many human activities in the very
different circumstances in which we live. We have sensed a profound joy in
experiencing the unity of our Eucharistic faith in the midst of the
widespread diversity of rites, cultures and pastoral situations. The
presence of so many Brother Bishops has allowed us to experience, in a
more direct way, the richness of our different liturgical traditions that
makes the depths of the unique Eucharistic mystery shine forth.
We invite you, dear Christian brothers and sisters of every confession,
to pray more fervently that the day of reconciliation and the full visible
unity of the Church might come in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in
conformity with the prayer of Jesus on the eve of his death: "That all may
be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, that they may be one in
us, so that the world will believe that you sent me" (Jn 17:21).
4. Profoundly thankful to God for the Pontificate of the Holy Father,
John Paul II, and for his final Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia,
followed by the Apostolic Letter that opened the Year of the Eucharist,
Mane Nobiscum Domine, we ask God to multiply the fruits of his witness
and his teaching. We also extend our thanks to all the People of God,
whose presence and solidarity we have felt during these three weeks of
prayer and reflection. The local Churches in China, and their Bishops who
were not able to join us in our work, had a special place in our thoughts
To all of you, Bishops, priests and deacons, missionaries from all the
world consecrated men and women, lay faithful, and also to you, men and
women of good will, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit in the Name of the
Listening to the Suffering of the World
5. The meeting of the Synod has been an intense time of sharing and
witnessing to the life of the Church in the different continents. We have
been made aware of extreme situations and suffering generated by wars,
hunger, different forms of terrorism and injustice, which touch the daily
life of hundreds of millions of human beings.
The explosive violence in the Middle East and in Africa has reminded us
that the African Continent has been forgotten by world public opinion.
Natural disasters, which seem to have multiplied, force us to look upon
nature with greater respect and to strengthen our solidarity with those
We have not remained silent before the consequences of secularization,
present above all in the West, that lead to religious indifference and
various expressions of relativism. We have remembered and denounced the
situations of injustice and extreme poverty that are in evidence
everywhere, but especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
All this suffering cries out to God and challenges the conscience of
humanity. It challenges us all.
What is becoming of the global village of our earth, the threatened
environment that risks being ruined? What can be done so that, in this era
of globalization, solidarity might triumph over suffering and misery?
We also direct our thoughts to those who govern the nations, that they
take diligent care to provide access to the common good for all. We ask
that they be promoters of the dignity of every human being, from
conception till natural death. We ask them to enact laws which respect the
natural rights of marriage and the family.
For our part, we will continue to participate actively in a common
effort to generate lasting conditions for genuine progress for the whole
human family, where no one is lacking his or her daily bread.
6. We have carried all these suffering and these questions with us in
our Eucharistic celebration and adoration. In our debates, listening
carefully to one another, we have been moved and shaken by the witness of
the martyrs who are still present today, as throughout the whole history
of the Church, in many areas of the world. The Synod Fathers have recalled
that the martyrs have always found the strength to overcome hatred by love
and violence pardon, thanks to the Holy Eucharist.
'Do This in Memory of Me'
7. On the eve of his passion, "Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke
it and gave it to the disciples, saying, 'Take, eat, this is my body'.
Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them,
saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood, the blood of the
covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins"' (Mt
26:25-28). "'Do this in memory of me"' (Lk 22:19; I Cor 11:24-25).
From its beginnings, the Church has remembered the death and
Resurrection of Jesus with the same words and actions of the Last Supper,
asking the Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood
of Christ. We firmly believe and we teach in the constant tradition of the
Church that the words of Jesus pronounced by the priest at Mass, in the
power of the Holy Spirit, effect what they signify. They bring about the Real Presence of the Risen Christ (cf.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1366). The Church lives from
this gift par excellence that gathers it, purifies it and transforms it into the one body of Christ, animated by the one Spirit (cf. Eph 5:29).
The Eucharist is the gift of love, love of the Father who sent his only Son so that the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:16-17); the love of Christ who loved us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1); the love of God poured
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), who cries out in us,
"Abba, Father!" (Gal 4:6).
In celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, therefore, we joyfully announce the
salvation of the world in proclaiming the victorious death of the Lord
until he comes. In our Communion with his Body, we receive the "pledge" of
our own resurrection.
8. Forty years after the Second Vatican Council we wanted to examine to
what extent the mysteries of the faith are adequately expressed and
celebrated in our liturgical assemblies. The Synod reaffirms that the
Second Vatican Council provided the necessary basis for an authentic
liturgical renewal. It is necessary now to cultivate the positive fruits
of this reform, and to correct abuses that have crept into liturgical
We are convinced that respect for the sacred character of the liturgy
is transmitted by genuine fidelity to liturgical norms of legitimate
authority. No one should consider himself master of the Church's liturgy.
Living faith that recognizes the presence of the Lord is the first
condition for beautiful liturgical celebrations, which give a genuine
"Amen" to the glory of God.
Lights in the Eucharistic
Life of the Church
9. The work of the Synod has proceeded in an atmosphere of fraternal
joy that has been nourished by the open discussion of various problems and
the spontaneous sharing of the fruits of the Year of the Eucharist. The
listening presence and the interventions of our Holy Father Benedict XVI have been an example for us all and a precious
Many of the interventions have reported positive and joyful events, for
example: the renewed consciousness of the importance of Sunday Mass; the
increase in the number of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated
life in various places of the world; the powerful experiences of the World
Youth Days, culminating at Cologne in Germany; the development of numerous
initiatives for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament almost everywhere
in the world; the renewal of the catechesis on Baptism and the Eucharist
in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the growth of
movements and communities who form missionaries for the new
evangelization; the growth in the number of young altar servers who bring
with them the hope of new vocations, and many other events that cause us
to give thanks.
Finally, the Synod Fathers hope that the Year of the Eucharist might be
a beginning and a point of departure for a new evangelization of our
globalized humanity, which begins with the Eucharist.
10. We wish that "Eucharistic wonder" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 6)
might lead the faithful to an always stronger life of faith. To this end,
the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions celebrate the Divine Liturgy,
cultivate the prayer of Jesus and the Eucharistic fast, while the Latin
tradition fosters a "Eucharistic spirituality" that culminates in the
celebration of the Eucharist.
There is also adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass,
Eucharistic Benediction, processions with the Blessed Sacrament and
healthy manifestations of popular piety. Such spirituality will certainly
prove to be a very rich resource in sustaining everyday life and
strengthening our witness.
11. We thank God that in many countries where priests were not present,
or forced underground, the Church is now freely able to celebrate the Holy
Mysteries. The freedom to preach the Gospel and witnesses with their
renewed fervour are reawakening the faith little by little in areas
profoundly dechristianized. We affectionately greet and encourage all
those who continue to suffer persecution. We also ask that in those places
where Christians are a minority group, they be allowed to celebrate the
Day of the Lord in complete freedom.
Challenges for a
12. The life of our Churches is also marked by shadows and problems
which we have not ignored.
In the first place, we think of the loss of the sense of sin and the
persistent crisis in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance. It is
important to rediscover its deepest meaning; it is a conversion and a
precious remedy given by the Risen Christ for the forgiveness of sins (cf.
Jn 20:23) and for the growth of love towards him and our brothers and
It is interesting to notice that more and more young people, suitably
catechized, practice confessing their personal sins, thus revealing an
awareness of the reconciliation required for the worthy reception of Holy
13. Nevertheless, the lack of priests to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist
worries us a great deal and invites us to pray and more actively promote
Some priests, undergoing great difficulty, are forced to celebrate many
times and to move from one place to another to best meet the needs of the
faithful. They truly deserve our deep appreciation and solidarity.
Our thanks goes also to those many missionaries whose enthusiasm for
the proclamation of the Good News enables us to remain faithful today to
the commandment of the Lord to go into the whole world and to baptize in
his Name (cf. Mt 28:19).
14. On the other hand, we are worried because the absence of the priest
makes it impossible to celebrate Mass, to celebrate the Day of the Lord.
Various forms of celebration already exist in different continents that
suffer from a lack of priests. Yet, the practice of "spiritual communion",
dear to the Catholic tradition, can and should be better promoted and
explained so that the faithful may be helped both to communicate
sacramentally in a better way and to bring genuine consolation to those
who, for various reasons, cannot receive the Body and Blood of Christ in
Communion. We believe that this practice should help people who are alone,
especially the handicapped, the aged, those imprisoned and refugees.
15. We know the sadness of those who do not have access to sacramental
Communion because of their family situations that do not conform to the
commandment of the Lord (cf. Mt 19:3-9).
Some divorced and remarried people sadly accept their inability to take
sacramental Communion and they make an offering of it to God.
Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with an
We reaffirm that, while we do not endorse their choice (cf.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2384), they are not excluded from
the life of the Church. We ask that they participate in Sunday Mass and
devote themselves assiduously to listening to the Word of God, so that it
might nourish their life of faith, of love and of conversion. We wish to
tell them how close we are to them in prayer and pastoral concern.
Together, let us ask the Lord to obey his will faithfully.
16. We have also observed that in certain areas there is a lessening of
the sense of the sacred that affects not only the active and fruitful
participation of the faithful at Mass, but also the manner in which the
celebration takes place and the quality of the witness that Christians are
called to give. We seek to revive, by means of the Holy Eucharist, the
sense and joy of belonging to the Catholic community, as an increasing
number of departures from the Church is evident in certain countries.
The fact of de-Christianization calls for a better formation to
Christian life in families so that sacramental practice is revitalized and
genuinely expresses the content of the faith.
We therefore invite parents, pastors and catechists to work towards
re-establishing a strategy for evangelization and education in the faith
at the beginning of this new millennium.
17. Before the Lord of history and the future of the world, the poor of
every generation and today, the ever-increasing number of victims of
injustice and all the forgotten of this world challenge us. They remind us
of Christ's agony, until the end of the world.
These sufferings cannot remain extraneous to the celebration of the
Eucharistic mystery, which summons all of us to work for justice and the
transformation of the world in an active and conscious fashion on the
basis of the social teaching of the Church, which promotes the centrality
and dignity of the human person. "We cannot delude ourselves: mutual love
and especially the care that we show for those who are in need will
indicate that we will be recognized as true disciples of Christ (cf. Jn
13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This is the criterion that will attest the
authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations" (Mane Nobiscum Domine,
You will be My Witnesses
18. "Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them
to the end". St. John reveals the meaning of the Institution of the Holy
Eucharist in the narrative of the washing of the feet (cf. Jn 13:1-20).
Jesus humbles himself to wash the feet of his disciples as a sign of his
love which reaches beyond all limits. This prophetic gesture proclaims his
self-humiliation of the following day, unto death on the Cross; an action
that takes away the sins of the world an washes away every sin from our
The Holy Eucharist is the gift of love an encounter with the God who
low us and a spring welling up to eternal life. Bishops, priests and
deacons, we are the first witnesses and servants of this Love.
19. Dear Priests, we have thought of you a great deal over these
days. We recognize your generosity and your challenges. You bear, in
communion with us, the burden of the daily pastoral service of the People
of God. You proclaim the Word of God, and you take care to introduce the
faithful to the Eucharistic mystery.
What a grace your ministry is! We pray with you and for you so that,
together, we will remain faithful to the love of the Lord. We ask you to
be, with us and following the example of Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI,
"humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord", following a consistent
May the peace of Christ that you give to repentant sinners and to the
Eucharistic gatherings flow down upon you and on the communities that live
from your witness.
We remember with gratitude the commitment of the permanent deacons,
catechists, pastoral workers and numerous lay people who work for the
community. May your service always be fruitful and generous, nourished by
full unity of spirit and action with the Pastors of your communities!
20. Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, we are called, in
whatever form of life we find ourselves, to live our baptismal vocation,
clothing ourselves with the sentiments of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:2),
matching one another in humility following the example of Christ Jesus.
Our mutual love is not only an imitation of the Lord, it is a living proof
of the life-giving presence among us.
We greet and thank all consecrated people, that chosen portion of the
vineyard of the Lord who freely witness to the Good News of the Spouse who
coming (cf. Rv 22:17-20). Your Eucharistic witness in the service of
Christ is a cry of love in the darkness of the world, an echo of the
ancient Marian hymn the Stabat Mater and of the Magnificat.
May the Woman of the Eucharist par excellence, crowned with stars and
rich in love, the Virgin of the Assumption and of the Immaculate
Conception, watch over you in your service to God and the poor, in the joy
of Easter, for the hope of the world.
21. Dear young people, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has
repeatedly said that you lose nothing when you give yourselves to Christ.
We take up again his strong and serene words from his inaugural Mass that
direct you towards true happiness, with the greatest respect for your
personal freedom: "Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and
he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a
hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ
— and you will find true life".
We have great trust in your capacity and your desire to develop the
positive values in the world, and to change what is unjust and violent.
Please count upon our support and our prayer so that we may together
accept the challenge to build the future with Christ. You are the
"sentinels of the morning" and the "explorers of the future". Do not fail
to draw from the source of divine energy in the Holy Eucharist to bring
about the changes that are necessary.
To all young seminarians who are preparing for the priestly
ministry, and who share with their generation the same hopes for the
future, we wish to express our hope that their formation will be permeated
by an authentic Eucharistic spirituality.
22. Dear Christian married couples and your families, your
vocation to holiness begins as the domestic church and is nourished at the
Holy Table of the Eucharist. Your faith in the Sacrament of Marriage
transforms your nuptial union into a Temple of the Holy Spirit, into a
rich source of new life, generating children, the fruit of your love.
We have often spoken of you at the Synod because we are conscious of
the fragility and the uncertainties of the world today. Remain strong in
your struggle to educate your children in the faith. You are the source
where vocations to the priesthood and the Religious life are born. Do not
forget that Christ dwells in your union; he blesses it with all the graces
you need to live your vocation in a saintly way.
We encourage you to maintain the practice of participating as a family
in the Sunday Eucharist. In this way, you bring joy to the Heart of Jesus,
who has said: "Let the little children come to me" (Mk 10:14).
23. We wish to address a special word to all the suffering, especially
the sick and the handicapped, who are united with Christ's
sacrifice through their suffering (cf. Rom 12:2). In your suffering of
body and heart, you participate in a special way in the sacrifice of the
Eucharist and you are privileged witnesses of the love which comes from
We are certain that in the moment when we experience our own frailty
and limitations, the strength of the Eucharist can be a great help. United
to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, we find the answer to the anguish of
suffering and death, especially when sickness strikes innocent children.
We are close to you all, and especially close to those of you who are
dying and who receive the Body of Christ as Viaticum for their
final journey towards the Kingdom.
That All may be One
24. The Holy Father Benedict XVI has restated the solemn commitment of
the Church to the cause of ecumenism. We are all responsible for this
unity (cf. Jn 17:21), as we are all members of the Family of God because
of our Baptism, graced by the same fundamental dignity and sharing in the
remarkable sacramental gift of divine life. We all feel the sadness of
separation which prevents the common celebration of the Eucharist.
We wish to intensify the prayer for unity within communities, the
exchange of gifts between the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well
as the respectful and fraternal contact among everyone, so that we may
better know and love one another, respecting and appreciating our
differences and our shared values.
The precise regulations of the Church determine the position we are to
take on sharing the Eucharist with brothers and sisters who are not yet in
full communion with us. A healthy discipline prevents confusion and
imprudent gestures that might further damage true communion.
25. As Christians, we are close to the other descendants of Abraham:
the Jews, who were the first to inherit the Covenant, and the Muslims. In
celebrating the Holy Eucharist, we also believe that we are, in the words
of St Augustine, "a sacrament of humanity" (City of God, 16), the voice of
all the prayers and supplications that rise from the earth towards God.
Conclusion: The Peace, Full of Hope
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
26. We thank God for this 11th Synodal Assembly which, convened 40
years after the Second Vatican Council, has made us go back to the source
of the mystery of the Church. We thus end the Year of the Eucharist on a
high note, confirmed in unity and renewed in apostolic and missionary
At the beginning of the fourth century, Christian worship was still
forbidden by the Imperial Authorities. The Christians of North Africa,
committed to their celebration of the Day of the Lord, defied the
prohibition. They were martyred because they declared that they could not
live without the Sunday Eucharistic celebration.
The 49 Martyrs of Abitene, united with so many Saints and Blesseds who
have made the Eucharist the centre of their life, are praying for us at
the beginning of this new millennium. They teach us faithfulness to the
gathering of the New Covenant with the Risen Christ.
At the end of this Synod we experience that peace, full of hope, that
the disciples of Emmaus, with burning hearts, received from the Risen
Lord. They arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem, to share their joy
with their brothers and sisters in the faith.
We hope that you will go joyfully to meet him in the Holy Eucharist,
and that you will experience the truth of his words: "And I am with you
until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Peace be with you!