OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY,
AND THE LAY FAITHFUL
ON THE EUCHARIST
AS THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT
OF THE CHURCH'S LIFE AND MISSION
The food of truth 
The development of the eucharistic rite 
The Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist 
The purpose of the present Exhortation 
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY TO BE BELIEVED
The Church's eucharistic faith 
Trinity and the Eucharist
The bread come down from heaven 
A free gift of the Blessed Trinity 
Eucharist: Jesus the true Sacrificial Lamb
The new and eternal covenant in the blood of the Lamb 
The institution of the Eucharist 
Figura transit in veritatem 
The Holy Spirit
and the Eucharist
Jesus and the Holy Spirit 
The Holy Spirit and the eucharistic celebration 
The Eucharist and the
The Eucharist, causal principle of the Church 
The Eucharist and ecclesial communion 
The Eucharist and
The sacramentality of the Church 
I. The Eucharist and Christian initiation
The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation 
The order of the sacraments of initiation 
Initiation, the ecclesial community and the family 
II. The Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation
Their intrinsic connection 
Some pastoral concerns 
III. The Eucharist and the anointing of the sick 
IV. The Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders
In persona Christi capitis 
The Eucharist and priestly celibacy 
The clergy shortage and the pastoral care of vocations 
Gratitude and hope 
V. The Eucharist and matrimony
The Eucharist, a nuptial sacrament 
The Eucharist and the unicity of marriage 
The Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage 
The Eucharist and
The Eucharist: a gift to men and women on their journey 
The eschatological banquet 
Prayer for the dead 
The Eucharist and
the Virgin Mary 
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY TO BE CELEBRATED
Lex orandi and lex credendi 
Beauty and the liturgy 
The Eucharistic celebration, the work of “Christus Totus”
Christus totus in capite et in corpore 
The Eucharist and the risen Christ 
Ars celebrandi 
The Bishop, celebrant par excellence 
Respect for the liturgical books and the richness of signs 
Art at the service of the liturgy 
Liturgical song 
Structure of the Eucharistic Celebration 
The intrinsic unity of the liturgical action 
The liturgy of the word 
The homily 
The presentation of the gifts 
The Eucharistic Prayer 
The sign of peace 
The distribution and reception of the Eucharist 
The dismissal: “Ite, missa est” 
Authentic participation 
Participation and the priestly ministry 
The eucharistic celebration and inculturation 
Personal conditions for an “active participation” 
Participation by Christians who are not Catholic 
Participation through the communications media 
Active participation by the sick 
Care for prisoners 
Migrants and participation in the Eucharist 
Large-scale celebrations 
The Latin language 
Eucharistic celebrations in small groups 
participation in the celebration
Mystagogical catechesis 
Reverence for the Eucharist 
The intrinsic relationship between celebration and adoration
The practice of eucharistic adoration 
Forms of eucharistic devotion 
The location of the tabernacle 
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY TO BE LIVED
Eucharistic form of the Christian life
Spiritual worship – logiké latreía (Rom 12:1)
The all-encompassing effect of eucharistic worship 
Iuxta dominicam viventes – living in accordance with the
Lord's Day 
Living the Sunday obligation 
The meaning of rest and of work 
Sunday assemblies in the absence of a priest 
A eucharistic form of Christian life, membership in the Church
Spirituality and eucharistic culture 
The Eucharistic and the evangelization of cultures 
The Eucharist and the lay faithful 
The Eucharist and priestly spirituality 
The Eucharist and the consecrated life 
The Eucharist and moral transformation 
Eucharistic consistency 
Eucharist, a mystery to be proclaimed
The Eucharist and mission 
The Eucharist and witness 
Christ Jesus, the one Saviour 
Freedom of worship 
Eucharist, a mystery to be offered to the world
The Eucharist, bread broken for the life of the world 
The social implications of the eucharistic mystery 
The food of truth and human need 
The Church's social teaching 
The sanctification of the world and the protection of creation
The usefulness of a Eucharistic Compendium 
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
The Synod of Bishops and the Year of the
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 fervour 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 neighbour: "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).
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
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 fulfilment 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)
Eucharist: Jesus the true Sacrificial lamb
The new and eternal covenant in the blood of
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).
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 Holy Spirit and the eucharistic
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).
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 centre 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).
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 Saviour, 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
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
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 programmes should make the most of this
highly significant moment.
II. The Eucharist and the Sacrament of
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
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 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
The clergy shortage and the pastoral care of
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 practised. 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
The Eucharist and the indissolubility of
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 honouring. (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.
Eucharist and Eschatology
The Eucharist: a gift to men and women on
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 fulfilment 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 fulfilment.
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
fulfilment 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
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;
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 fulfilment of our hope, this does
not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God's
gifts to us have found their perfect fulfilment 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.
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY
TO BE CELEBRATED
"Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses
who gave you the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven" (Jn 6:32)
Lex orandi and lex credendi
34. The Synod of Bishops reflected at length on the
intrinsic relationship between eucharistic faith and eucharistic
celebration, pointing out the connection between the lex orandi
and the lex credendi, and stressing the primacy of the
liturgical action. The Eucharist should be experienced as a
mystery of faith, celebrated authentically and with a clear
awareness that "the intellectus fidei has a primordial
relationship to the Church's liturgical action." (105) Theological
reflection in this area can never prescind from the sacramental
order instituted by Christ himself. On the other hand, the
liturgical action can never be considered generically, prescinding
from the mystery of faith. Our faith and the eucharistic liturgy
both have their source in the same event: Christ's gift of himself
in the Paschal Mystery.
Beauty and the liturgy
35. This relationship between creed and worship is
evidenced in a particular way by the rich theological and liturgical
category of beauty. Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the
liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor.
The liturgy is a radiant expression of the paschal mystery, in
which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion. As Saint
Bonaventure would say, in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendour
at their source. (106) This is no mere aestheticism, but the
concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters
us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from
ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love.
(107) God allows himself to be glimpsed first in creation, in the
beauty and harmony of the cosmos (cf. Wis 13:5; Rom
1:19- 20). In the Old Testament we see many signs of the grandeur of
God's power as he manifests his glory in his wondrous deeds among
the Chosen People (cf. Ex 14; 16:10; 24:12-18; Num
14:20- 23). In the New Testament this epiphany of beauty reaches
definitive fulfilment in God's revelation in Jesus Christ: (108)
Christ is the full manifestation of the glory of God. In the
glorification of the Son, the Father's glory shines forth and is
communicated (cf. Jn 1:14; 8:54; 12:28; 17:1). Yet this
beauty is not simply a harmony of proportion and form; "the fairest
of the sons of men" (Ps 45:3) is also, mysteriously, the
one "who had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and
no beauty that we should desire him" (Is 53:2). Jesus Christ
shows us how the truth of love can transform even the dark mystery
of death into the radiant light of the resurrection. Here the
splendour of God's glory surpasses all worldly beauty. The truest
beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us
in the paschal mystery.
The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery;
it is a sublime expression of God's glory and, in a certain sense, a
glimpse of heaven on earth. The memorial of Jesus' redemptive
sacrifice contains something of that beauty which Peter, James and
John beheld when the Master, making his way to Jerusalem, was
transfigured before their eyes (cf. Mk 9:2). Beauty, then, is
not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the
liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his
revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care
which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate
The Eucharistic celebration, the work of "Christus Totus"
Christus totus in capite et in corpore
36. The "subject" of the liturgy's intrinsic beauty
is Christ himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who
includes the Church in his work. (109) Here we can recall an
evocative phrase of Saint Augustine which strikingly describes this
dynamic of faith proper to the Eucharist. The great Bishop of Hippo,
speaking specifically of the eucharistic mystery, stresses the fact
that Christ assimilates us to himself: "The bread you see on the
altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. The
chalice, or rather, what the chalice contains, sanctified by the
word of God, is the blood of Christ. In these signs, Christ the Lord
willed to entrust to us his body and the blood which he shed for the
forgiveness of our sins. If you have received them properly, you
yourselves are what you have received." (110) Consequently, "not
only have we become Christians, we have become Christ himself."
(111) We can thus contemplate God's mysterious work, which brings
about a profound unity between ourselves and the Lord Jesus: "one
should not believe that Christ is in the head but not in the body;
rather he is complete in the head and in the body." (112)
The Eucharist and the risen Christ
37. Since the eucharistic liturgy is essentially an
actio Dei which draws us into Christ through the Holy Spirit,
its basic structure is not something within our power to change, nor
can it be held hostage by the latest trends. Here too Saint Paul's
irrefutable statement applies: "no one can lay any foundation other
than the one that has been laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor
3:11). Again it is the Apostle of the Gentiles who assures us
that, with regard to the Eucharist, he is presenting not his own
teaching but what he himself has received (cf. 1 Cor 11:23).
The celebration of the Eucharist implies and involves the living
Tradition. The Church celebrates the eucharistic sacrifice in
obedience to Christ's command, based on her experience of the Risen
Lord and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, from
the beginning, the Christian community has gathered for the
fractio panis on the Lord's Day. Sunday, the day Christ rose
from the dead, is also the first day of the week, the day which the
Old Testament tradition saw as the beginning of God's work of
creation. The day of creation has now become the day of the "new
creation," the day of our liberation, when we commemorate Christ who
died and rose again (113).
38. In the course of the Synod, there was frequent
insistence on the need to avoid any antithesis between the ars
celebrandi, the art of proper celebration, and the full, active
and fruitful participation of all the faithful. The primary way to
foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is
the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi
is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio. (114)
The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the
liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand
years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all
believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of
God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5, 9)
The Bishop, celebrant par excellence
39. While it is true that the whole People of God
participates in the eucharistic liturgy, a correct ars celebrandi
necessarily entails a specific responsibility on the part of
those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders. Bishops,
priests, and deacons, each according to his proper rank, must
consider the celebration of the liturgy as their principal duty
(116). Above all, this is true of the Diocesan Bishop: as "the chief
steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted
to his care, he is the moderator, promoter, and guardian of the
whole of its liturgical life" (117). This is essential for the life
of the particular Church, not only because communion with the Bishop
is required for the lawfulness of every celebration within his
territory, but also because he himself is the celebrant par
excellence within his Diocese (118). It is his responsibility to
ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking place in his
territory. Consequently the Bishop must be "determined that the
priests, the deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more
deeply the genuine meaning of the rites and liturgical texts, and
thereby be led to an active and fruitful celebration of the
Eucharist" (119). I would ask that every effort be made to ensure
that the liturgies which the Bishop celebrates in his Cathedral are
carried out with complete respect for the ars celebrandi, so
that they can be considered an example for the entire Diocese (120).
Respect for the liturgical books and the
richness of signs
40. Emphasizing the importance of the ars
celebrandi also leads to an appreciation of the value of the
liturgical norms. (121) The ars celebrandi should foster a
sense of the sacred and the use of outward signs which help to
cultivate this sense, such as, for example, the harmony of the rite,
the liturgical vestments, the furnishings and the sacred space. The
eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical
leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts
and norms, making available the great riches found in the General
Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Readings for
Mass. Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial
communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is
not always the case. These texts contain riches which have preserved
and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its
two-thousand-year history. Equally important for a correct ars
celebrandi is an attentiveness to the various kinds of language
that the liturgy employs: words and music, gestures and silence,
movement, the liturgical colours of the vestments. By its very
nature the liturgy operates on different levels of communication
which enable it to engage the whole human person. The simplicity of
its gestures and the sobriety of its orderly sequence of signs
communicate and inspire more than any contrived and inappropriate
additions. Attentiveness and fidelity to the specific structure of
the rite express both a recognition of the nature of Eucharist as a
gift and, on the part of the minister, a docile openness to
receiving this ineffable gift.
Art at the service of the liturgy
41. The profound connection between beauty and the
liturgy should make us attentive to every work of art placed at the
service of the celebration. (122) Certainly an important element of
sacred art is church architecture, (123) which should highlight the
unity of the furnishings of the sanctuary, such as the altar, the
crucifix, the tabernacle, the ambo and the celebrant's chair. Here
it is important to remember that the purpose of sacred architecture
is to offer the Church a fitting space for the celebration of the
mysteries of faith, especially the Eucharist. (124) The very nature
of a Christian church is defined by the liturgy, which is an
assembly of the faithful (ecclesia) who are the living stones
of the Church (cf. 1 Pet 2:5).
This same principle holds true for sacred art in
general, especially painting and sculpture, where religious
iconography should be directed to sacramental mystagogy. A solid
knowledge of the history of sacred art can be advantageous for those
responsible for commissioning artists and architects to create works
of art for the liturgy. Consequently it is essential that the
education of seminarians and priests include the study of art
history, with special reference to sacred buildings and the
corresponding liturgical norms. Everything related to the Eucharist
should be marked by beauty. Special respect and care must also be
given to the vestments, the furnishings and the sacred vessels, so
that by their harmonious and orderly arrangement they will foster
awe for the mystery of God, manifest the unity of the faith and
strengthen devotion (125).
42. In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song
has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a
famous sermon that "the new man sings a new song. Singing is an
expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of
love" (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the
praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the
Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which
represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not
be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say
that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the
introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of
the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song
should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128).
Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to
correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the
structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally,
while respecting various styles and different and highly
praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request
advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably
esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy
of the Eucharistic Celebration
43. After mentioning the more significant elements
of the ars celebrandi that emerged during the Synod, I would
now like to turn to some specific aspects of the structure of the
eucharistic celebration which require special attention at the
present time, if we are to remain faithful to the underlying
intention of the liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican
Council, in continuity with the great ecclesial tradition.
The intrinsic unity of the liturgical action
44. First of all, there is a need to reflect on the
inherent unity of the rite of Mass. Both in catechesis and in the
actual manner of celebration, one must avoid giving the impression
that the two parts of the rite are merely juxtaposed. The liturgy of
the word and the Eucharistic liturgy, with the rites of introduction
and conclusion, "are so closely interconnected that they form but
one single act of worship." (132) There is an intrinsic bond between
the word of God and the Eucharist. From listening to the word of
God, faith is born or strengthened (cf. Rom 10:17); in the
Eucharist the Word made flesh gives himself to us as our spiritual
food. (133) Thus, "from the two tables of the word of God and the
Body of Christ, the Church receives and gives to the faithful the
bread of life." (134) Consequently it must constantly be kept in
mind that the word of God, read and proclaimed by the Church in the
liturgy, leads to the Eucharist as to its own connatural end.
The liturgy of the word
45. Together with the Synod, I ask that the liturgy
of the word always be carefully prepared and celebrated.
Consequently I urge that every effort be made to ensure that the
liturgical proclamation of the word of God is entrusted to well-
prepared readers. Let us never forget that "when the Sacred
Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people,
and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel"(135).
When circumstances so suggest, a few brief words of introduction
could be offered in order to focus the attention of the faithful. If
it is to be properly understood, the word of God must be listened to
and accepted in a spirit of communion with the Church and with a
clear awareness of its unity with the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Indeed, the word which we proclaim and accept is the Word made flesh
(cf. Jn 1:14); it is inseparably linked to Christ's person
and the sacramental mode of his continued presence in our midst.
Christ does not speak in the past, but in the present, even as he is
present in the liturgical action. In this sacramental context of
Christian revelation (136), knowledge and study of the word of God
enable us better to appreciate, celebrate and live the Eucharist.
Here too, we can see how true it is that "ignorance of Scripture is
ignorance of Christ" (137).
To this end, the faithful should be helped to
appreciate the riches of Sacred Scripture found in the lectionary
through pastoral initiatives, liturgies of the word and reading in
the context of prayer (lectio divina). Efforts should also be
made to encourage those forms of prayer confirmed by tradition, such
as the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning Prayer, Evening
Prayer and Night Prayer, and vigil celebrations. By praying the
Psalms, the Scripture readings and the readings drawn from the great
tradition which are included in the Divine Office, we can come to a
deeper experience of the Christ-event and the economy of salvation,
which in turn can enrich our understanding and participation in the
celebration of the Eucharist (138).
46. Given the importance of the word of God, the
quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily is "part of the
liturgical action" (139), and is meant to foster a deeper
understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the
lives of the faithful. Hence ordained ministers must "prepare the
homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred
Scripture" (140). Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided.
In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that
the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to
the sacramental celebration (141) and the life of the community, so
that the word of God truly becomes the Church's vital nourishment
and support (142). The catechetical and paraenetic aim of the homily
should not be forgotten. During the course of the liturgical year it
is appropriate to offer the faithful, prudently and on the basis of
the three-year lectionary, "thematic" homilies treating the great
themes of the Christian faith, on the basis of what has been
authoritatively proposed by the Magisterium in the four "pillars" of
the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent
Compendium, namely: the profession of faith, the celebration of
the Christian mystery, life in Christ and Christian prayer (143).
The presentation of the gifts
47. The Synod Fathers also drew attention to the
presentation of the gifts. This is not to be viewed simply as a kind
of "interval" between the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the
Eucharist. To do so would tend to weaken, at the least, the sense of
a single rite made up of two interrelated parts. This humble and
simple gesture is actually very significant: in the bread and wine
that we bring to the altar, all creation is taken up by Christ the
Redeemer to be transformed and presented to the Father. (144) In
this way we also bring to the altar all the pain and suffering of
the world, in the certainty that everything has value in God's eyes.
The authentic meaning of this gesture can be clearly expressed
without the need for undue emphasis or complexity. It enables us to
appreciate how God invites man to participate in bringing to
fulfilment his handiwork, and in so doing, gives human labour its
authentic meaning, since, through the celebration of the Eucharist,
it is united to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
The Eucharistic Prayer
48. The Eucharistic Prayer is "the centre and summit
of the entire celebration" (145). Its importance deserves to be
adequately emphasized. The different Eucharistic Prayers contained
in the Missal have been handed down to us by the Church's living
Tradition and are noteworthy for their inexhaustible theological and
spiritual richness. The faithful need to be enabled to appreciate
that richness. Here the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
can help, with its list of the basic elements of every
Eucharistic Prayer: thanksgiving, acclamation, epiclesis,
institution narrative and consecration, anamnesis, offering,
intercessions and final doxology (146). In a particular way,
eucharistic spirituality and theological reflection are enriched if
we contemplate in the anaphora the profound unity between the
invocation of the Holy Spirit and the institution narrative (147)
whereby "the sacrifice is carried out which Christ himself
instituted at the Last Supper" (148). Indeed, "the Church implores
the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands
be consecrated, that is, become Christ's Body and Blood, and that
the spotless Victim to be received in communion be for the salvation
of those who will partake of it" (149).
The sign of peace
49. By its nature the Eucharist is the sacrament of
peace. At Mass this dimension of the eucharistic mystery finds
specific expression in the sign of peace. Certainly this sign has
great value (cf. Jn 14:27). In our times, fraught with fear
and conflict, this gesture has become particularly eloquent, as the
Church has become increasingly conscious of her responsibility to
pray insistently for the gift of peace and unity for herself and for
the whole human family. Certainly there is an irrepressible desire
for peace present in every heart. The Church gives voice to the hope
for peace and reconciliation rising up from every man and woman of
good will, directing it towards the one who "is our peace" (Eph
2:14) and who can bring peace to individuals and peoples when
all human efforts fail. We can thus understand the emotion so often
felt during the sign of peace at a liturgical celebration. Even so,
during the Synod of Bishops there was discussion about the
appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be
exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just
before the reception of Communion. It should be kept in mind that
nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which
preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example,
when it is restricted to one's immediate neighbours (150).
The distribution and reception of the
50. Another moment of the celebration needing to be
mentioned is the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. I ask
everyone, especially ordained ministers and those who, after
adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to
exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist, to make every
effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a
personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament. For the
rules governing correct practice in this regard, I would refer to
those documents recently issued on the subject. (151) All Christian
communities are to observe the current norms faithfully, seeing in
them an expression of the faith and love with which we all must
regard this sublime sacrament. Furthermore, the precious time of
thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the
singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to
remain recollected in silence. (152)
In this regard, I would like to call attention to a
pastoral problem frequently encountered nowadays. I am referring to
the fact that on certain occasions – for example, wedding Masses,
funerals and the like – in addition to practising Catholics there
may be others present who have long since ceased to attend Mass or
are living in a situation which does not permit them to receive the
sacraments. At other times members of other Christian confessions
and even other religions may be present. Similar situations can
occur in churches that are frequently visited, especially in tourist
areas. In these cases, there is a need to find a brief and clear way
to remind those present of the meaning of sacramental communion and
the conditions required for its reception. Wherever circumstances
make it impossible to ensure that the meaning of the Eucharist is
duly appreciated, the appropriateness of replacing the celebration
of the Mass with a celebration of the word of God should be
The dismissal: "Ite, missa est"
51. Finally, I would like to comment briefly on the
observations of the Synod Fathers regarding the dismissal at the end
of the eucharistic celebration. After the blessing, the deacon or
the priest dismisses the people with the words: Ite, missa est.
These words help us to grasp the relationship between the Mass just
celebrated and the mission of Christians in the world. In antiquity,
missa simply meant "dismissal." However in Christian usage it
gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word "dismissal" has come to
imply a "mission." These few words succinctly express the missionary
nature of the Church. The People of God might be helped to
understand more clearly this essential dimension of the Church's
life, taking the dismissal as a starting- point. In this context, it
might also be helpful to provide new texts, duly approved, for the
prayer over the people and the final blessing, in order to make this
connection clear (154).
52. The Second Vatican Council rightly emphasized
the active, full and fruitful participation of the entire People of
God in the eucharistic celebration (155). Certainly, the renewal
carried out in these past decades has made considerable progress
towards fulfilling the wishes of the Council Fathers. Yet we must
not overlook the fact that some misunderstanding has occasionally
arisen concerning the precise meaning of this participation. It
should be made clear that the word "participation" does not refer to
mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active
participation called for by the Council must be understood in more
substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the
mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life. The
conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium encouraged the
faithful to take part in the eucharistic liturgy not "as strangers
or silent spectators," but as participants "in the sacred action,
conscious of what they are doing, actively and devoutly" (156). This
exhortation has lost none of its force. The Council went on to say
that the faithful "should be instructed by God's word, and nourished
at the table of the Lord's Body. They should give thanks to God.
Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the
priest but also together with him, they should learn to make an
offering of themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be
drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each
Participation and the priestly ministry
53. The beauty and the harmony of the liturgy find
eloquent expression in the order by which everyone is called to
participate actively. This entails an acknowledgment of the distinct
hierarchical roles involved in the celebration. It is helpful to
recall that active participation is not per se equivalent to the
exercise of a specific ministry. The active participation of the
laity does not benefit from the confusion arising from an inability
to distinguish, within the Church's communion, the different
functions proper to each one. (158) There is a particular need for
clarity with regard to the specific functions of the priest. He
alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests,
presides over the entire eucharistic celebration, from the initial
greeting to the final blessing. In virtue of his reception of Holy
Orders, he represents Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and, in
a specific way, also the Church herself. (159) Every celebration of
the Eucharist, in fact, is led by the Bishop, "either in person or
through priests who are his helpers."(160) He is helped by a deacon,
who has specific duties during the celebration: he prepares the
altar, assists the priest, proclaims the Gospel, preaches the homily
from time to time, reads the intentions of the Prayer of the
Faithful, and distributes the Eucharist to the faithful. (161)
Associated with these ministries linked to the sacrament of Holy
Orders, there are also other ministries of liturgical service which
can be carried out in a praiseworthy manner by religious and
properly trained laity. (162)
The eucharistic celebration and inculturation
54. On the basis of these fundamental statements of
the Second Vatican Council, the Synod Fathers frequently stressed
the importance of the active participation of the faithful in the
eucharistic sacrifice. In order to foster this participation,
provision may be made for a number of adaptations appropriate to
different contexts and cultures. (163) The fact that certain abuses
have occurred does not detract from this clear principle, which must
be upheld in accordance with the real needs of the Church as she
lives and celebrates the one mystery of Christ in a variety of
cultural situations. In the mystery of the Incarnation, the Lord
Jesus, born of woman and fully human (cf. Gal 4:4), entered
directly into a relationship not only with the expectations present
within the Old Testament, but also with those of all peoples. He
thus showed that God wishes to encounter us in our own concrete
situation. A more effective participation of the faithful in the
holy mysteries will thus benefit from the continued inculturation of
the eucharistic celebration, with due regard for the possibilities
for adaptation provided in the General Instruction of the Roman
Missal, (164) interpreted in the light of the criteria laid down
by the Fourth Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and
the Discipline of the Sacraments Varietates Legitimae of 25
January 1994 (165) and the directives expressed by Pope John Paul II
in the Post-Synodal Exhortations Ecclesia in Africa,
Ecclesia in America, Ecclesia in Asia, Ecclesia in
Oceania and Ecclesia in Europa (166). To this end, I
encourage Episcopal Conferences to strive to maintain a proper
balance between the criteria and directives already issued and new
adaptations (167), always in accord with the Apostolic See.
Personal conditions for an "active
55. In their consideration of the actuosa
participatio of the faithful in the liturgy, the Synod Fathers
also discussed the personal conditions required for fruitful
participation on the part of individuals. (168) One of these is
certainly the spirit of constant conversion which must mark the
lives of all the faithful. Active participation in the eucharistic
liturgy can hardly be expected if one approaches it superficially,
without an examination of his or her life. This inner disposition
can be fostered, for example, by recollection and silence for at
least a few moments before the beginning of the liturgy, by fasting
and, when necessary, by sacramental confession. A heart reconciled
to God makes genuine participation possible. The faithful need to be
reminded that there can be no actuosa participatio in the
sacred mysteries without an accompanying effort to participate
actively in the life of the Church as a whole, including a
missionary commitment to bring Christ's love into the life of
Clearly, full participation in the Eucharist takes
place when the faithful approach the altar in person to receive
communion (169). Yet true as this is, care must be taken lest they
conclude that the mere fact of their being present in church during
the liturgy gives them a right or even an obligation to approach the
table of the Eucharist. Even in cases where it is not possible to
receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains
necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances
it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ
through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John
Paul II (170) and recommended by saints who were masters of the
spiritual life (171).
Participation by Christians who are not
56. The subject of participation in the Eucharist
inevitably raises the question of Christians belonging to Churches
or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic
Church. In this regard, it must be said that the intrinsic link
between the Eucharist and the Church's unity inspires us to long for
the day when we will be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist
together with all believers in Christ, and in this way to express
visibly the fullness of unity that Christ willed for his disciples
(cf. Jn 17:21). On the other hand, the respect we owe to the
sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood prevents us from making it a
mere "means" to be used indiscriminately in order to attain that
unity. (172) The Eucharist in fact not only manifests our personal
communion with Jesus Christ, but also implies full communio
with the Church. This is the reason why, sadly albeit not without
hope, we ask Christians who are not Catholic to understand and
respect our conviction, which is grounded in the Bible and
Tradition. We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial
communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for
non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the
latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating
with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full
communion with the Catholic Church. Yet it remains true that, for
the sake of their eternal salvation, individual non-Catholic
Christians can be admitted to the Eucharist, the sacrament of
Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. But this is possible
only in specific, exceptional situations and requires that certain
precisely defined conditions be met (173). These are clearly
indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (174) and
in its Compendium (175). Everyone is obliged to observe these
Participation through the communications media
57. Thanks to the remarkable development of the
communications media, the word "participation" has taken on a
broader meaning in recent decades. We all gladly acknowledge that
the media have also opened up new possibilities for the celebration
of the Eucharist. (176) This requires a specific preparation and a
keen sense of responsibility on the part of pastoral workers in the
sector. When Mass is broadcast on television, it inevitably tends to
set an example. Particular care should therefore be taken to ensure
that, in addition to taking place in suitable and well-appointed
locations, the celebration respects the liturgical norms in force.
Finally, with regard to the value of taking part in
Mass via the communications media, those who hear or view these
broadcasts should be aware that, under normal circumstances, they do
not fulfil the obligation of attending Mass. Visual images can
represent reality, but they do not actually reproduce it.(177) While
it is most praiseworthy that the elderly and the sick participate in
Sunday Mass through radio and television, the same cannot be said of
those who think that such broadcasts dispense them from going to
church and sharing in the eucharistic assembly in the living Church.
Active participation by the sick
58. In thinking of those who cannot attend places of
worship for reasons of health or advanced age, I wish to call the
attention of the whole Church community to the pastoral importance
of providing spiritual assistance to the sick, both those living at
home and those in hospital. Their situation was often mentioned
during the Synod of Bishops. These brothers and sisters of ours
should have the opportunity to receive sacramental communion
frequently. In this way they can strengthen their relationship with
Christ, crucified and risen, and feel fully involved in the Church's
life and mission by the offering of their sufferings in union with
our Lord's sacrifice. Particular attention needs to be given to the
disabled. When their condition so permits, the Christian community
should make it possible for them to attend the place of worship.
Buildings should be designed to provide ready access to the
disabled. Finally, whenever possible, eucharistic communion should
be made available to the mentally handicapped, if they are baptized
and confirmed: they receive the Eucharist in the faith also of the
family or the community that accompanies them. (178)
Care for prisoners
59. The Church's spiritual tradition, basing itself
on Christ's own words (cf. Mt 25:36), has designated the
visiting of prisoners as one of the corporal works of mercy.
Prisoners have a particular need to be visited personally by the
Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Experiencing the closeness
of the ecclesial community, sharing in the Eucharist and receiving
holy communion at this difficult and painful time can surely
contribute to the quality of a prisoner's faith journey and to full
social rehabilitation. Taking up the recommendation of the Synod, I
ask Dioceses to do whatever is possible to ensure that sufficient
pastoral resources are invested in the spiritual care of prisoners.
Migrants and participation in the Eucharist
60. Turning now to those people who for various
reasons are forced to leave their native countries, the Synod
expressed particular gratitude to all those engaged in the pastoral
care of migrants. Specific attention needs to be paid to migrants
belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches; in addition to being far
from home, they also encounter the difficulty of not being able to
participate in the eucharistic liturgy in their own rite. For this
reason, wherever possible, they should be served by priests of their
rite. In all cases I would ask Bishops to welcome these brothers and
sisters with the love of Christ. Contacts between the faithful of
different rites can prove a source of mutual enrichment. In
particular, I am thinking of the benefit that can come, especially
for the clergy, from a knowledge of the different traditions. (180)
61. The Synod considered the quality of
participation in the case of large-scale celebrations held on
special occasions and involving not only a great number of the lay
faithful, but also many concelebrating priests. (181) On the one
hand, it is easy to appreciate the importance of these moments,
especially when the Bishop himself celebrates, surrounded by his
presbyterate and by the deacons. On the other hand, it is not always
easy in such cases to give clear expression to the unity of the
presbyterate, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer and the
distribution of Holy Communion. Efforts need to be made lest these
large-scale concelebrations lose their proper focus. This can be
done by proper coordination and by arranging the place of worship so
that priests and lay faithful are truly able to participate fully.
It should be kept in mind, however, that here we are speaking of
exceptional concelebrations, limited to extraordinary situations.
The Latin language
62. None of the above observations should cast doubt
upon the importance of such large-scale liturgies. I am thinking
here particularly of celebrations at international gatherings, which
nowadays are held with greater frequency. The most should be made of
these occasions. In order to express more clearly the unity and
universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by
the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second
Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the
homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be
celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers (183) of
the Church's tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible,
selections of Gregorian chant should be sung. Speaking more
generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the
seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to
celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute
Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be
taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing
parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (184)
Eucharistic celebrations in small groups
63. A very different situation arises when, in the
interest of more conscious, active and fruitful participation,
pastoral circumstances favour small group celebrations. While
acknowledging the formative value of this approach, it must be
stated that such celebrations should always be consonant with the
overall pastoral activity of the Diocese. These celebrations would
actually lose their catechetical value if they were felt to be in
competition with, or parallel to, the life of the particular Church.
In this regard, the Synod set forth some necessary criteria: small
groups must serve to unify the community, not to fragment it; the
beneficial results ought to be clearly evident; these groups should
encourage the fruitful participation of the entire assembly, and
preserve as much as possible the unity of the liturgical life of
individual families. (185)
participation in the celebration
64. The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches
us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be
personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's
life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation
of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that
the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions
correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully
planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling
into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in
eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live
personally what they celebrate. Given the vital importance of this
personal and conscious participatio, what methods of
formation are needed? The Synod Fathers unanimously indicated, in
this regard, a mystagogical approach to catechesis, which would lead
the faithful to understand more deeply the mysteries being
celebrated. (186) In particular, given the close relationship
between the ars celebrandi and an actuosa participatio,
it must first be said that "the best catechesis on the Eucharist is
the Eucharist itself, celebrated well." (187) By its nature, the
liturgy can be pedagogically effective in helping the faithful to
enter more deeply into the mystery being celebrated. That is why, in
the Church's most ancient tradition, the process of Christian
formation always had an experiential character. While not neglecting
a systematic understanding of the content of the faith, it centred
on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ, as proclaimed by
authentic witnesses. It is first and foremost the witness who
introduces others to the mysteries. Naturally, this initial
encounter gains depth through catechesis and finds its source and
summit in the celebration of the Eucharist. This basic structure of
the Christian experience calls for a process of mystagogy which
should always respect three elements:
a) It interprets the rites in the light of
the events of our salvation, in accordance with the Church's
living tradition. The celebration of the Eucharist, in its infinite
richness, makes constant reference to salvation history. In Christ
crucified and risen, we truly celebrate the one who has united all
things in himself (cf. Eph 1:10). From the beginning, the
Christian community has interpreted the events of Jesus' life, and
the Paschal Mystery in particular, in relation to the entire history
of the Old Testament.
b) A mystagogical catechesis must also be
concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained
in the rites. This is particularly important in a highly
technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to
appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying
information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making
the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures
which, together with the word, make up the rite.
c) Finally, a mystagogical catechesis must be
concerned with bringing out the significance of the rites for the
Christian life in all its dimensions – work and responsibility,
thoughts and emotions, activity and repose. Part of the mystagogical
process is to demonstrate how the mysteries celebrated in the rite
are linked to the missionary responsibility of the faithful. The
mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one's life is being
progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated.
The aim of all Christian education, moreover, is to train the
believer in an adult faith that can make him a "new creation",
capable of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope
that inspires him.
If we are to succeed in carrying out this work of
education in our ecclesial communities, those responsible for
formation must be adequately prepared. Indeed, the whole people of
God should feel involved in this formation. Each Christian community
is called to be a place where people can be taught about the
mysteries celebrated in faith. In this regard, the Synod Fathers
called for greater involvement by communities of consecrated life,
movements and groups which, by their specific charisms, can give new
impetus to Christian formation. (188) In our time, too, the Holy
Spirit freely bestows his gifts to sustain the apostolic mission of
the Church, which is charged with spreading the faith and bringing
it to maturity. (189)
Reverence for the Eucharist
65. A convincing indication of the effectiveness of
eucharistic catechesis is surely an increased sense of the mystery
of God present among us. This can be expressed in concrete outward
signs of reverence for the Eucharist which the process of mystagogy
should inculcate in the faithful. (190) I am thinking in general of
the importance of gestures and posture, such as kneeling during the
central moments of the Eucharistic Prayer. Amid the legitimate
diversity of signs used in the context of different cultures,
everyone should be able to experience and express the awareness that
at each celebration we stand before the infinite majesty of God, who
comes to us in the lowliness of the sacramental signs.
Adoration and Eucharistic devotion
The intrinsic relationship between celebration
66. One of the most moving moments of the Synod came
when we gathered in Saint Peter's Basilica, together with a great
number of the faithful, for eucharistic adoration. In this act of
prayer, and not just in words, the assembly of Bishops wanted to
point out the intrinsic relationship between eucharistic celebration
and eucharistic adoration. A growing appreciation of this
significant aspect of the Church's faith has been an important part
of our experience in the years following the liturgical renewal
desired by the Second Vatican Council. During the early phases of
the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of
the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient
clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time
argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked
at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church's experience of
prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy. As Saint
Augustine put it: "nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius
adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh
without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it."
(191) In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires
to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural
consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the
Church's supreme act of adoration. (192) Receiving the Eucharist
means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one
with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of
the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and
intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration
itself. Indeed, "only in adoration can a profound and genuine
reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with
the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the
Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that
separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls
that separate us from one another." (193)
The practice of eucharistic adoration
67. With the Synod Assembly, therefore, I heartily
recommend to the Church's pastors and to the People of God the
practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in
community. (194) Great benefit would ensue from a suitable
catechesis explaining the importance of this act of worship, which
enables the faithful to experience the liturgical celebration more
fully and more fruitfully. Wherever possible, it would be
appropriate, especially in densely populated areas, to set aside
specific churches or oratories for perpetual adoration. I also
recommend that, in their catechetical training, and especially in
their preparation for First Holy Communion, children be taught the
meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus, and helped to
cultivate a sense of awe before his presence in the Eucharist.
Here I would like to express appreciation and
support for all those Institutes of Consecrated Life whose members
dedicate a significant amount of time to eucharistic adoration. In
this way they give us an example of lives shaped by the Lord's real
presence. I would also like to encourage those associations of the
faithful and confraternities specifically devoted to eucharistic
adoration; they serve as a leaven of contemplation for the whole
Church and a summons to individuals and communities to place Christ
at the centre of their lives.
Forms of eucharistic devotion
68. The personal relationship which the individual
believer establishes with Jesus present in the Eucharist constantly
points beyond itself to the whole communion of the Church and
nourishes a fuller sense of membership in the Body of Christ. For
this reason, besides encouraging individual believers to make time
for personal prayer before the Sacrament of the Altar, I feel
obliged to urge parishes and other church groups to set aside times
for collective adoration. Naturally, already existing forms of
eucharistic piety retain their full value. I am thinking, for
example, of processions with the Blessed Sacrament, especially the
traditional procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi,
the Forty Hours devotion, local, national and international
Eucharistic Congresses, and other similar initiatives. If suitably
updated and adapted to local circumstances, these forms of devotion
are still worthy of being practised today. (195)
The location of the tabernacle
69. In considering the importance of eucharistic
reservation and adoration, and reverence for the sacrament of
Christ's sacrifice, the Synod of Bishops also discussed the question
of the proper placement of the tabernacle in our churches. (196) The
correct positioning of the tabernacle contributes to the recognition
of Christ's real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore, the
place where the eucharistic species are reserved, marked by a
sanctuary lamp, should be readily visible to everyone entering the
church. It is therefore necessary to take into account the
building's architecture: in churches which do not have a Blessed
Sacrament chapel, and where the high altar with its tabernacle is
still in place, it is appropriate to continue to use this structure
for the reservation and adoration of the Eucharist, taking care not
to place the celebrant's chair in front of it. In new churches, it
is good to position the Blessed Sacrament chapel close to the
sanctuary; where this is not possible, it is preferable to locate
the tabernacle in the sanctuary, in a sufficiently elevated place,
at the centre of the apse area, or in another place where it will be
equally conspicuous. Attention to these considerations will lend
dignity to the tabernacle, which must always be cared for, also from
an artistic standpoint. Obviously it is necessary to follow the
provisions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in
this regard. (197) In any event, final judgment on these matters
belongs to the Diocesan Bishop.
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY
TO BE LIVED
"As the living Father sent me, and I live
because of the Father,
so he who eats me will live because of me" (Jn 6:57)
form of the Christian life
Spiritual worship – logiké latreía (Rom
70. The Lord Jesus, who became for us the food of
truth and love, speaks of the gift of his life and assures us that
"if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever" (Jn
6:51). This "eternal life" begins in us even now, thanks to the
transformation effected in us by the gift of the Eucharist: "He who
eats me will live because of me" (Jn 6:57). These words of
Jesus make us realize how the mystery "believed" and "celebrated"
contains an innate power making it the principle of new life within
us and the form of our Christian existence. By receiving the body
and blood of Jesus Christ we become sharers in the divine life in an
ever more adult and conscious way. Here too, we can apply Saint
Augustine's words, in his Confessions, about the eternal
Logos as the food of our souls. Stressing the mysterious nature
of this food, Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: "I am the
food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you
change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall
be changed into me." (198) It is not the eucharistic food that is
changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by
it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself; "he draws us into
Here the eucharistic celebration appears in all its
power as the source and summit of the Church's life, since it
expresses at once both the origin and the fulfilment of the new and
definitive worship of God, the logiké latreía. (200) Saint
Paul's exhortation to the Romans in this regard is a concise
description of how the Eucharist makes our whole life a spiritual
worship pleasing to God: "I appeal to you therefore, my brothers, by
the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom
12:1). In these words the new worship appears as a total
self-offering made in communion with the whole Church. The Apostle's
insistence on the offering of our bodies emphasizes the concrete
human reality of a worship which is anything but disincarnate. The
Bishop of Hippo goes on to say that "this is the sacrifice of
Christians: that we, though many, are one body in Christ. The Church
celebrates this mystery in the sacrament of the altar, as the
faithful know, and there she shows them clearly that in what is
offered, she herself is offered." (201) Catholic doctrine, in fact,
affirms that the Eucharist, as the sacrifice of Christ, is also the
sacrifice of the Church, and thus of all the faithful. (202) This
insistence on sacrifice – a "making sacred" – expresses all the
existential depth implied in the transformation of our human reality
as taken up by Christ (cf. Phil 3:12).
The all-encompassing effect of eucharistic
71. Christianity's new worship includes and
transfigures every aspect of life: "Whether you eat or drink, or
whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).
Christians, in all their actions, are called to offer true worship
to God. Here the intrinsically eucharistic nature of Christian life
begins to take shape. The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete,
everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the
progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect
the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:29ff.). There is
nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words
and deeds – that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the
form it needs to be lived to the full. Here we can see the full
human import of the radical newness brought by Christ in the
Eucharist: the worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to
something private and individual, but tends by its nature to
permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus
becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment
of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship
with Christ and as an offering to God. The glory of God is the
living man (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). And the life of man is the
vision of God. (203)
Iuxta dominicam viventes – living in
accordance with the Lord's Day
72. From the beginning Christians were clearly
conscious of this radical newness which the Eucharist brings to
human life. The faithful immediately perceived the profound
influence of the eucharistic celebration on their manner of life.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch expressed this truth when he called
Christians "those who have attained a new hope," and described them
as "those living in accordance with the Lord's Day" (iuxta
dominicam viventes). (204) This phrase of the great Antiochene
martyr highlights the connection between the reality of the
Eucharist and everyday Christian life. The Christians' customary
practice of gathering on the first day after the Sabbath to
celebrate the resurrection of Christ – according to the account of
Saint Justin Martyr(205) – is also what defines the form of a life
renewed by an encounter with Christ. Saint Ignatius' phrase –
"living in accordance with the Lord's Day" – also emphasizes that
this holy day becomes paradigmatic for every other day of the week.
Indeed, it is defined by something more than the simple suspension
of one's ordinary activities, a sort of parenthesis in one's usual
daily rhythm. Christians have always experienced this day as the
first day of the week, since it commemorates the radical newness
brought by Christ. Sunday is thus the day when Christians rediscover
the eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have. "Living in
accordance with the Lord's Day" means living in the awareness of the
liberation brought by Christ and making our lives a constant
self-offering to God, so that his victory may be fully revealed to
all humanity through a profoundly renewed existence.
Living the Sunday obligation
73. Conscious of this new vital principle which the
Eucharist imparts to the Christian, the Synod Fathers reaffirmed the
importance of the Sunday obligation for all the faithful, viewing it
as a wellspring of authentic freedom enabling them to live each day
in accordance with what they celebrated on "the Lord's Day." The
life of faith is endangered when we lose the desire to share in the
celebration of the Eucharist and its commemoration of the paschal
victory. Participating in the Sunday liturgical assembly with all
our brothers and sisters, with whom we form one body in Jesus
Christ, is demanded by our Christian conscience and at the same time
it forms that conscience. To lose a sense of Sunday as the Lord's
Day, a day to be sanctified, is symptomatic of the loss of an
authentic sense of Christian freedom, the freedom of the children of
God. (206) Here some observations made by my venerable predecessor
John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (207)
continue to have great value. Speaking of the various dimensions of
the Christian celebration of Sunday, he said that it is Dies
Domini with regard to the work of creation, Dies Christi
as the day of the new creation and the Risen Lord's gift of the Holy
Spirit, Dies Ecclesiae as the day on which the Christian
community gathers for the celebration, and Dies hominis as
the day of joy, rest and fraternal charity.
Sunday thus appears as the primordial holy day, when
all believers, wherever they are found, can become heralds and
guardians of the true meaning of time. It gives rise to the
Christian meaning of life and a new way of experiencing time,
relationships, work, life and death. On the Lord's Day, then, it is
fitting that Church groups should organize, around Sunday Mass, the
activities of the Christian community: social gatherings, programmes
for the faith formation of children, young people and adults,
pilgrimages, charitable works, and different moments of prayer. For
the sake of these important values – while recognizing that Saturday
evening, beginning with First Vespers, is already a part of Sunday
and a time when the Sunday obligation can be fulfilled – we need to
remember that it is Sunday itself that is meant to be kept holy,
lest it end up as a day "empty of God." (208)
The meaning of rest and of work
74. Finally, it is particularly urgent nowadays to
remember that the day of the Lord is also a day of rest from work.
It is greatly to be hoped that this fact will also be recognized by
civil society, so that individuals can be permitted to refrain from
work without being penalized. Christians, not without reference to
the meaning of the Sabbath in the Jewish tradition, have seen in the
Lord's Day a day of rest from their daily exertions. This is highly
significant, for it relativizes work and directs it to the
person: work is for man and not man for work. It is easy to see how
this actually protects men and women, emancipating them from a
possible form of enslavement. As I have had occasion to say, "work
is of fundamental importance to the fulfilment of the human being
and to the development of society. Thus, it must always be organized
and carried out with full respect for human dignity and must always
serve the common good. At the same time, it is indispensable that
people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or to idolize it,
claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life."
(209) It is on the day consecrated to God that men and women come to
understand the meaning of their lives and also of their work. (210)
Sunday assemblies in the absence of a priest
75. Rediscovering the significance of the Sunday
celebration for the life of Christians naturally leads to a
consideration of the problem of those Christian communities which
lack priests and where, consequently, it is not possible to
celebrate Mass on the Lord's Day. Here it should be stated that a
wide variety of situations exists. The Synod recommended first that
the faithful should go to one of the churches in their Diocese where
the presence of a priest is assured, even when this demands a
certain sacrifice. (211) Wherever great distances make it
practically impossible to take part in the Sunday Eucharist, it is
still important for Christian communities to gather together to
praise the Lord and to commemorate the Day set apart for him. This
needs, however, to be accompanied by an adequate instruction about
the difference between Mass and Sunday assemblies in the absence of
a priest. The Church's pastoral care must be expressed in the latter
case by ensuring that the liturgy of the word – led by a deacon or a
community leader to whom this ministry has been duly entrusted by
competent authority – is carried out according to a specific ritual
prepared and approved for this purpose by the Bishops' Conferences.
(212) I reiterate that only Ordinaries may grant the faculty of
distributing holy communion in such liturgies, taking account of the
need for a certain selectiveness. Furthermore, care should be taken
that these assemblies do not create confusion about the central role
of the priest and the sacraments in the life of the Church. The
importance of the role given to the laity, who should rightly be
thanked for their generosity in the service of their communities,
must never obscure the indispensable ministry of priests for the
life of the Church. (213) Hence care must be taken to ensure that
such assemblies in the absence of a priest do not encourage
ecclesiological visions incompatible with the truth of the Gospel
and the Church's tradition. Rather, they should be privileged
moments of prayer for God to send holy priests after his own heart.
It is touching, in this regard, to read the words of Pope John Paul
II in his Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 1979 about
those places where the faithful, deprived of a priest by a
dictatorial regime, would meet in a church or shrine, place on the
altar a stole which they still kept and recite the prayers of the
eucharistic liturgy, halting in silence "at the moment that
corresponds to the transubstantiation," as a sign of how "ardently
they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a priest can
efficaciously utter." (214) With this in mind, and considering the
incomparable good which comes from the celebration of the Eucharist,
I ask all priests to visit willingly and as often as possible the
communities entrusted to their pastoral care, lest they remain too
long without the sacrament of love.
A eucharistic form of Christian life,
membership in the Church
76. The importance of Sunday as the Dies
Ecclesiae brings us back to the intrinsic relationship between
Jesus' victory over evil and death, and our membership in his
ecclesial body. On the Lord's Day, each Christian rediscovers the
communal dimension of his life as one who has been redeemed. Taking
part in the liturgy and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ
intensifies and deepens our belonging to the one who died for us
(cf. 1 Cor 6:19ff; 7:23). Truly, whoever eats of Christ lives
for him. The eucharistic mystery helps us to understand the profound
meaning of the communio sanctorum. Communion always and
inseparably has both a vertical and a horizontal sense: it is
communion with God and communion with our brothers and sisters. Both
dimensions mysteriously converge in the gift of the Eucharist.
"Wherever communion with God, which is communion with the Father,
with the Son and with the Holy Spirit, is destroyed, the root and
source of our communion with one another is destroyed. And wherever
we do not live communion among ourselves, communion with the Triune
God is not alive and true either."(215) Called to be members of
Christ and thus members of one another (cf. 1 Cor 12:27), we
are a reality grounded ontologically in Baptism and nourished by the
Eucharist, a reality that demands visible expression in the life of
The eucharistic form of Christian life is clearly an
ecclesial and communitarian form. Through the Diocese and the
parish, the fundamental structures of the Church in a particular
territory, each individual believer can experience concretely what
it means to be a member of Christ's Body. Associations, ecclesial
movements and new communities – with their lively charisms bestowed
by the Holy Spirit for the needs of our time – together with
Institutes of Consecrated Life, have a particular responsibility for
helping to make the faithful conscious that they belong to
the Lord (cf. Rom 14:8). Secularization, with its inherent
emphasis on individualism, has its most negative effects on
individuals who are isolated and lack a sense of belonging.
Christianity, from its very beginning, has meant fellowship, a
network of relationships constantly strengthened by hearing God's
word and sharing in the Eucharist, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
Spirituality and eucharistic culture
77. Significantly, the Synod Fathers stated that
"the Christian faithful need a fuller understanding of the
relationship between the Eucharist and their daily lives.
Eucharistic spirituality is not just participation in Mass and
devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It embraces the whole of life."
(216) This observation is particularly insightful, given our
situation today. It must be acknowledged that one of the most
serious effects of the secularization just mentioned is that it has
relegated the Christian faith to the margins of life as if it were
irrelevant to everyday affairs. The futility of this way of living –
"as if God did not exist" – is now evident to everyone. Today there
is a need to rediscover that Jesus Christ is not just a private
conviction or an abstract idea, but a real person, whose becoming
part of human history is capable of renewing the life of every man
and woman. Hence the Eucharist, as the source and summit of the
Church's life and mission, must be translated into spirituality,
into a life lived "according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:4ff.; cf.
Gal 5:16, 25). It is significant that Saint Paul, in the passage
of the Letter to the Romans where he invites his hearers to
offer the new spiritual worship, also speaks of the need for a
change in their way of living and thinking: "Do not be conformed to
this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you
may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and
perfect" (12:2). In this way the Apostle of the Gentiles emphasizes
the link between true spiritual worship and the need for a new way
of understanding and living one's life. An integral part of the
eucharistic form of the Christian life is a new way of thinking, "so
that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried
about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14).
The Eucharist and the evangelization of
78. From what has been said thus far, it is clear
that the eucharistic mystery puts us in dialogue with various
cultures, but also in some way challenges them. (217) The
intercultural character of this new worship, this logiké latreía,
needs to be recognized. The presence of Jesus Christ and the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit are events capable of engaging every
cultural reality and bringing to it the leaven of the Gospel. It
follows that we must be committed to promoting the evangelization of
cultures, conscious that Christ himself is the truth for every man
and woman, and for all human history. The Eucharist becomes a
criterion for our evaluation of everything that Christianity
encounters in different cultures. In this important process of
discernment, we can appreciate the full meaning of Saint Paul's
exhortation, in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, to
"test everything; and hold fast to what is good" (5:21).
The Eucharist and the lay faithful
79. In Christ, Head of his Body, the Church, all
Christians are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a
people he claims for his own, to declare his wonderful deeds" (1
Pet 2:9). The Eucharist, as a mystery to be "lived", meets each
of us as we are, and makes our concrete existence the place where we
experience daily the radical newness of the Christian life. The
eucharistic sacrifice nourishes and increases within us all that we
have already received at Baptism, with its call to holiness, (218)
and this must be clearly evident from the way individual Christians
live their lives. Day by day we become "a worship pleasing to God"
by living our lives as a vocation. Beginning with the liturgical
assembly, the sacrament of the Eucharist itself commits us, in our
daily lives, to doing everything for God's glory.
And because the world is "the field" (Mt
13:38) in which God plants his children as good seed, the Christian
laity, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, and strengthened
by the Eucharist, are called to live out the radical newness brought
by Christ wherever they find themselves. (219) They should cultivate
a desire that the Eucharist have an ever deeper effect on their
daily lives, making them convincing witnesses in the workplace and
in society at large. (220) I encourage families in particular to
draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament. The love between
man and woman, openness to life, and the raising of children are
privileged spheres in which the Eucharist can reveal its power to
transform life and give it its full meaning. (221) The Church's
pastors should unfailingly support, guide and encourage the lay
faithful to live fully their vocation to holiness within this world
which God so loved that he gave his Son to become its salvation (cf.
The Eucharist and priestly spirituality
80. The eucharistic form of the Christian life is
seen in a very special way in the priesthood. Priestly spirituality
is intrinsically eucharistic. The seeds of this spirituality are
already found in the words spoken by the Bishop during the
ordination liturgy: "Receive the oblation of the holy people to be
offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate,
and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord's Cross." (222) In
order to give an ever greater eucharistic form to his existence, the
priest, beginning with his years in the seminary, should make his
spiritual life his highest priority. (223) He is called to seek God
tirelessly, while remaining attuned to the concerns of his brothers
and sisters. An intense spiritual life will enable him to enter more
deeply into communion with the Lord and to let himself be possessed
by God's love, bearing witness to that love at all times, even the
darkest and most difficult. To this end I join the Synod Fathers in
recommending "the daily celebration of Mass, even when the faithful
are not present." (224) This recommendation is consistent with the
objectively infinite value of every celebration of the Eucharist,
and is motivated by the Mass's unique spiritual fruitfulness. If
celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in
the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest's
configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation.
The Eucharist and the consecrated life
81. The relationship of the Eucharist to the various
ecclesial vocations is seen in a particularly vivid way in "the
prophetic witness of consecrated men and women, who find in the
celebration of the Eucharist and in eucharistic adoration the
strength necessary for the radical following of Christ, obedient,
poor and chaste." (225) Though they provide many services in the
area of human formation and care for the poor, education and health
care, consecrated men and women know that the principal purpose of
their lives is "the contemplation of things divine and constant
union with God in prayer." (226) The essential contribution that the
Church expects from consecrated persons is much more in the order of
being than of doing. Here I wish to reaffirm the importance of the
witness of virginity, precisely in relation to the mystery of the
Eucharist. In addition to its connection to priestly celibacy, the
eucharistic mystery also has an intrinsic relationship to
consecrated virginity, inasmuch as the latter is an expression of
the Church's exclusive devotion to Christ, whom she accepts as her
Bridegroom with a radical and fruitful fidelity.(227 In the
Eucharist, consecrated virginity finds inspiration and nourishment
for its complete dedication to Christ. From the Eucharist, moreover,
it draws encouragement and strength to be a sign, in our own times
too, of God's gracious and fruitful love for humanity. Finally, by
its specific witness, consecrated life becomes an objective sign and
foreshadowing of the "wedding- feast of the Lamb" (Rev
19:7-9) which is the goal of all salvation history. In this sense,
it points to that eschatological horizon against which the choices
and life decisions of every man and woman should be situated.
The Eucharist and moral transformation
82. In discovering the beauty of the eucharistic
form of the Christian life, we are also led to reflect on the moral
energy it provides for sustaining the authentic freedom of the
children of God. Here I wish to take up a discussion that took place
during the Synod about the connection between the eucharistic
form of life and moral transformation. Pope John Paul II
stated that the moral life "has the value of a 'spiritual worship' (Rom
12:1; cf. Phil 3:3), flowing from and nourished by that
inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is
found in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in
the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ's
self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same
charity in all his thoughts and deeds" (228). In a word, "'worship'
itself, eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being
loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass
over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented"
This appeal to the moral value of spiritual worship
should not be interpreted in a merely moralistic way. It is before
all else the joy-filled discovery of love at work in the hearts of
those who accept the Lord's gift, abandon themselves to him and thus
find true freedom. The moral transformation implicit in the new
worship instituted by Christ is a heartfelt yearning to respond to
the Lord's love with one's whole being, while remaining ever
conscious of one's own weakness. This is clearly reflected in the
Gospel story of Zacchaeus (cf. Lk 19:1-10). After welcoming
Jesus to his home, the tax collector is completely changed: he
decides to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay
fourfold those whom he had defrauded. The moral urgency born of
welcoming Jesus into our lives is the fruit of gratitude for having
experienced the Lord's unmerited closeness.
83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod
Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which
our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God
can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our
relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith.
Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially
incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political
position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as
respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural
death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the
freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common
good in all its forms (230). These values are not negotiable.
Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of
their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly
bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce
and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (231).
There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1
Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these
values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to
The Eucharist, a
mystery to be proclaimed
The Eucharist and mission
84. In my homily at the eucharistic celebration
solemnly inaugurating my Petrine ministry, I said that "there is
nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the
encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know
him and to speak to others of our friendship with him." (233) These
words are all the more significant if we think of the mystery of the
Eucharist. The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not
something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it demands to
be shared with all. What the world needs is God's love; it needs to
encounter Christ and to believe in him. The Eucharist is thus the
source and summit not only of the Church's life, but also of her
mission: "an authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary
Church." (234) We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters
with conviction: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also
to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1:3).
Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him
known to others. The institution of the Eucharist, for that matter,
anticipates the very heart of Jesus' mission: he is the one sent by
the Father for the redemption of the world (cf. Jn 3:16-17;
Rom 8:32). At the Last Supper, Jesus entrusts to his
disciples the sacrament which makes present his self-sacrifice for
the salvation of us all, in obedience to the Father's will. We
cannot approach the eucharistic table without being drawn into the
mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant to reach
all people. Missionary outreach is thus an essential part of the
eucharistic form of the Christian life.
The Eucharist and witness
85. The first and fundamental mission that we
receive from the sacred mysteries we celebrate is that of bearing
witness by our lives. The wonder we experience at the gift God has
made to us in Christ gives new impulse to our lives and commits us
to becoming witnesses of his love. We become witnesses when, through
our actions, words and way of being, Another makes himself present.
Witness could be described as the means by which the truth of God's
love comes to men and women in history, inviting them to accept
freely this radical newness. Through witness, God lays himself open,
one might say, to the risk of human freedom. Jesus himself is the
faithful and true witness (cf. Rev 1:5; 3:14), the one who
came to testify to the truth (cf. Jn 18:37). Here I would
like to reflect on a notion dear to the early Christians, which also
speaks eloquently to us today: namely, witness even to the offering
of one's own life, to the point of martyrdom. Throughout the history
of the Church, this has always been seen as the culmination of the
new spiritual worship: "Offer your bodies" (Rom 12:1). One
thinks, for example, of the account of the martyrdom of Saint
Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of Saint John: the entire drama is
described as a liturgy, with the martyr himself becoming Eucharist.
(235) We might also recall the eucharistic imagery with which Saint
Ignatius of Antioch describes his own imminent martyrdom: he sees
himself as "God's wheat" and desires to become in martyrdom
"Christ's pure bread." (236) The Christian who offers his life in
martyrdom enters into full communion with the Pasch of Jesus Christ
and thus becomes Eucharist with him. Today too, the Church does not
lack martyrs who offer the supreme witness to God's love. Even if
the test of martyrdom is not asked of us, we know that worship
pleasing to God demands that we should be inwardly prepared for it.
(237) Such worship culminates in the joyful and convincing testimony
of a consistent Christian life, wherever the Lord calls us to be his
Christ Jesus, the one Saviour
86. Emphasis on the intrinsic relationship between
the Eucharist and mission also leads to a rediscovery of the
ultimate content of our proclamation. The more ardent the love for
the Eucharist in the hearts of the Christian people, the more
clearly will they recognize the goal of all mission: to bring
Christ to others. Not just a theory or a way of life inspired by
Christ, but the gift of his very person. Anyone who has not shared
the truth of love with his brothers and sisters has not yet given
enough. The Eucharist, as the sacrament of our salvation, inevitably
reminds us of the unicity of Christ and the salvation that he won
for us by his blood. The mystery of the Eucharist, believed in and
celebrated, demands a constant catechesis on the need for all to
engage in a missionary effort centred on the proclamation of Jesus
as the one Saviour. (238) This will help to avoid a reductive and
purely sociological understanding of the vital work of human
promotion present in every authentic process of evangelization.
Freedom of worship
87. In this context, I wish to reiterate the concern
expressed by the Synod Fathers about the grave difficulties
affecting the mission of those Christian communities in areas where
Christians are a minority or where they are denied religious
freedom. (239) We should surely give thanks to the Lord for all
those Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity who devote
themselves generously to the preaching of the Gospel and practise
their faith at the risk of their lives. In not a few parts of the
world, simply going to church represents a heroic witness that can
result in marginalization and violence. Here too, I would like to
reaffirm the solidarity of the whole Church with those who are
denied freedom of worship. As we know, wherever religious freedom is
lacking, people lack the most meaningful freedom of all, since it is
through faith that men and women express their deepest decision
about the ultimate meaning of their lives. Let us pray, therefore,
for greater religious freedom in every nation, so that Christians,
as well as the followers of other religions, can freely express
their convictions, both as individuals and as communities.
Eucharist, a mystery to be offered to the world
The Eucharist, bread broken for the life of
88. "The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life
of the world" (Jn 6:51). In these words the Lord reveals the
true meaning of the gift of his life for all people. These words
also reveal his deep compassion for every man and woman. The Gospels
frequently speak of Jesus' feelings towards others, especially the
suffering and sinners (cf. Mt 20:34; Mk 6:34; Lk
19:41). Through a profoundly human sensibility he expresses
God's saving will for all people – that they may have true life.
Each celebration of the Eucharist makes sacramentally present the
gift that the crucified Lord made of his life, for us and for the
whole world. In the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God's
compassion towards all our brothers and sisters. The eucharistic
mystery thus gives rise to a service of charity towards neighbour,
which "consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love
even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take
place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter
which has become a communion of will, affecting even my feelings.
Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes
and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ." (240) In
all those I meet, I recognize brothers or sisters for whom the Lord
gave his life, loving them "to the end" (Jn 13:1). Our
communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever
more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the
Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become "bread that
is broken" for others, and to work for the building of a more just
and fraternal world. Keeping in mind the multiplication of the
loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ continues today to
exhort his disciples to become personally engaged: "You yourselves,
give them something to eat" (Mt 14:16). Each of us is truly
called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the
The social implications of the eucharistic
89. The union with Christ brought about by the
Eucharist also brings a newness to our social relations: "this
sacramental ‘mysticism' is social in character." Indeed, "union with
Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I
cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in
union with all those who have become, or who will become, his
own."(241) The relationship between the eucharistic mystery and
social commitment must be made explicit. The Eucharist is the
sacrament of communion between brothers and sisters who allow
themselves to be reconciled in Christ, who made of Jews and pagans
one people, tearing down the wall of hostility which divided them
(cf. Eph 2:14). Only this constant impulse towards
reconciliation enables us to partake worthily of the Body and Blood
of Christ (cf. Mt 5:23-24). (242) In the memorial of his
sacrifice, the Lord strengthens our fraternal communion and, in a
particular way, urges those in conflict to hasten their
reconciliation by opening themselves to dialogue and a commitment to
justice. Certainly, the restoration of justice, reconciliation and
forgiveness are the conditions for building true peace.(243) The
recognition of this fact leads to a determination to transform
unjust structures and to restore respect for the dignity of all men
and women, created in God's image and likeness. Through the concrete
fulfilment of this responsibility, the Eucharist becomes in life
what it signifies in its celebration. As I have had occasion to say,
it is not the proper task of the Church to engage in the political
work of bringing about the most just society possible; nonetheless
she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for
justice. The Church "has to play her part through rational argument
and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice,
which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper." (244)
In discussing the social responsibility of all
Christians, the Synod Fathers noted that the sacrifice of Christ is
a mystery of liberation that constantly and insistently challenges
us. I therefore urge all the faithful to be true promoters of peace
and justice: "All who partake of the Eucharist must commit
themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war,
and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and
sexual exploitation." (245) All these problems give rise in turn to
others no less troubling and disheartening. We know that there can
be no superficial solutions to these issues. Precisely because of
the mystery we celebrate, we must denounce situations contrary to
human dignity, since Christ shed his blood for all, and at the same
time affirm the inestimable value of each individual person.
The food of truth and human need
90. We cannot remain passive before certain
processes of globalization which not infrequently increase the gap
between the rich and the poor worldwide. We must denounce those who
squander the earth's riches, provoking inequalities that cry out to
heaven (cf. Jas 5:4). For example, it is impossible to remain
silent before the "distressing images of huge camps throughout the
world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift
conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire
need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their
children not come into the world with the same legitimate
expectations of happiness as other children?" (246) The Lord Jesus,
the bread of eternal life, spurs us to be mindful of the situations
of extreme poverty in which a great part of humanity still lives:
these are situations for which human beings bear a clear and
disquieting responsibility. Indeed, "on the basis of available
statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the huge
sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to
liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This
challenges humanity's conscience. To peoples living below the
poverty line, more as a result of situations to do with
international political, commercial and cultural relations than as a
result of circumstances beyond anyone's control, our common
commitment to truth can and must give new hope" (247).
The food of truth demands that we denounce inhumane
situations in which people starve to death because of injustice and
exploitation, and it gives us renewed strength and courage to work
tirelessly in the service of the civilization of love. From the
beginning, Christians were concerned to share their goods (cf.
Acts 4:32) and to help the poor (cf. Rom 15:26). The alms
collected in our liturgical assemblies are an eloquent reminder of
this, and they are also necessary for meeting today's needs. The
Church's charitable institutions, especially Caritas, carry
out at various levels the important work of assisting the needy,
especially the poorest. Inspired by the Eucharist, the sacrament of
charity, they become a concrete expression of that charity; they are
to be praised and encouraged for their commitment to solidarity in
The Church's social teaching
91. The mystery of the Eucharist inspires and impels
us to work courageously within our world to bring about that renewal
of relationships which has its inexhaustible source in God's gift.
The prayer which we repeat at every Mass: "Give us this day our
daily bread," obliges us to do everything possible, in cooperation
with international, state and private institutions, to end or at
least reduce the scandal of hunger and malnutrition afflicting so
many millions of people in our world, especially in developing
countries. In a particular way, the Christian laity, formed at the
school of the Eucharist, are called to assume their specific
political and social responsibilities. To do so, they need to be
adequately prepared through practical education in charity and
justice. To this end, the Synod considered it necessary for Dioceses
and Christian communities to teach and promote the Church's social
doctrine. (248) In this precious legacy handed down from the
earliest ecclesial tradition, we find elements of great wisdom that
guide Christians in their involvement in today's burning social
issues. This teaching, the fruit of the Church's whole history, is
distinguished by realism and moderation; it can help to avoid
misguided compromises or false utopias.
The sanctification of the world and the
protection of creation
92. Finally, to develop a profound eucharistic
spirituality that is also capable of significantly affecting the
fabric of society, the Christian people, in giving thanks to God
through the Eucharist, should be conscious that they do so in the
name of all creation, aspiring to the sanctification of the world
and working intensely to that end.(249) The Eucharist itself
powerfully illuminates human history and the whole cosmos. In this
sacramental perspective we learn, day by day, that every ecclesial
event is a kind of sign by which God makes himself known and
challenges us. The eucharistic form of life can thus help foster a
real change in the way we approach history and the world. The
liturgy itself teaches us this, when, during the presentation of the
gifts, the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition
over the bread and wine, "fruit of the earth," "fruit of the vine"
and "work of human hands." With these words, the rite not only
includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but
also leads us to see the world as God's creation, which brings forth
everything we need for our sustenance. The world is not something
indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit.
Rather, it is part of God's good plan, in which all of us are called
to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ (cf.
Eph 1:4-12). The justified concern about threats to the
environment present in so many parts of the world is reinforced by
Christian hope, which commits us to working responsibly for the
protection of creation. (250) The relationship between the Eucharist
and the cosmos helps us to see the unity of God's plan and to grasp
the profound relationship between creation and the "new creation"
inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ, the new Adam. Even now we
take part in that new creation by virtue of our Baptism (cf. Col
2:12ff.). Our Christian life, nourished by the Eucharist, gives
us a glimpse of that new world – new heavens and a new earth – where
the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, from God, "prepared as a
bride adorned for her husband" (Rev 21:2).
The usefulness of a Eucharistic Compendium
93. At the conclusion of these reflections, in which
I have taken up a number of themes raised at the Synod, I also wish
to accept the proposal which the Synod Fathers advanced as a means
of helping the Christian people to believe, celebrate and live ever
more fully the mystery of the Eucharist. The competent offices of
the Roman Curia will publish a Compendium which will assemble
texts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayers,
explanations of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal and
other useful aids for a correct understanding, celebration and
adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar (251). It is my hope that
this book will help make the memorial of the Passover of the Lord
increasingly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission.
This will encourage each member of the faithful to make his or her
life a true act of spiritual worship.
94. Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is at
the root of every form of holiness, and each of us is called to the
fullness of life in the Holy Spirit. How many saints have advanced
along the way of perfection thanks to their eucharistic devotion!
From Saint Ignatius of Antioch to Saint Augustine, from Saint
Anthony Abbot to Saint Benedict, from Saint Francis of Assisi to
Saint Thomas Aquinas, from Saint Clare of Assisi to Saint Catherine
of Siena, from Saint Paschal Baylon to Saint Peter Julian Eymard,
from Saint Alphonsus Liguori to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, from
Saint John Mary Vianney to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, from Saint Pius
of Pietrelcina to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, from Blessed
Piergiorgio Frassati to Blessed Ivan Mertz, to name only a few,
holiness has always found its centre in the sacrament of the
This most holy mystery thus needs to be firmly
believed, devoutly celebrated and intensely lived in the Church.
Jesus' gift of himself in the sacrament which is the memorial of his
passion tells us that the success of our lives is found in our
participation in the trinitarian life offered to us truly and
definitively in him. The celebration and worship of the Eucharist
enable us to draw near to God's love and to persevere in that love
until we are united with the Lord whom we love. The offering of our
lives, our fellowship with the whole community of believers and our
solidarity with all men and women are essential aspects of that
logiké latreía, spiritual worship, holy and pleasing to God (cf.
Rom 12:1), which transforms every aspect of our human
existence, to the glory of God. I therefore ask all pastors to spare
no effort in promoting an authentically eucharistic Christian
spirituality. Priests, deacons and all those who carry out a
eucharistic ministry should always be able to find in this service,
exercized with care and constant preparation, the strength and
inspiration needed for their personal and communal path of
sanctification. I exhort the lay faithful, and families in
particular, to find ever anew in the sacrament of Christ's love the
energy needed to make their lives an authentic sign of the presence
of the risen Lord. I ask all consecrated men and women to show by
their eucharistic lives the splendour and the beauty of belonging
totally to the Lord.
95. At the beginning of the fourth century,
Christian worship was still forbidden by the imperial authorities.
Some Christians in North Africa, who felt bound to celebrate the
Lord's Day, defied the prohibition. They were martyred after
declaring that it was not possible for them to live without the
Eucharist, the food of the Lord: sine dominico non possumus.
(252) May these martyrs of Abitinae, in union with all those saints
and beati who made the Eucharist the centre of their lives,
intercede for us and teach us to be faithful to our encounter with
the risen Christ. We too cannot live without partaking of the
sacrament of our salvation; we too desire to be iuxta dominicam
viventes, to reflect in our lives what we celebrate on the
Lord's Day. That day is the day of our definitive deliverance. Is it
surprising, then, that we should wish to live every day in that
newness of life which Christ has brought us in the mystery of the
96. May Mary Most Holy, the Immaculate Virgin, ark
of the new and eternal covenant, accompany us on our way to meet the
Lord who comes. In her we find realized most perfectly the essence
of the Church. The Church sees in Mary – "Woman of the Eucharist,"
as she was called by the Servant of God John Paul II (253) – her
finest icon, and she contemplates Mary as a singular model of the
eucharistic life. For this reason, the priest, standing in the
presence of the verum Corpus natum de Maria Virgine on the
altar and speaking in the name of the liturgical assembly, says in
the words of the canon: "We honour Mary, the ever- virgin mother of
Jesus Christ our Lord and God." (254) Her holy name is also invoked
and venerated in the canons of the Eastern Christian traditions. The
faithful, for their part, "commend to Mary, Mother of the Church,
their lives and the work of their hands. Striving to have the same
sentiments as Mary, they help the whole community to become a living
offering pleasing to the Father." (255) She is the tota pulchra,
the all- beautiful, for in her the radiance of God's glory shines
forth. The beauty of the heavenly liturgy, which must be reflected
in our own assemblies, is faithfully mirrored in her. From Mary we
must learn to become men and women of the Eucharist and of the
Church, and thus to present ourselves, in the words of Saint Paul,
"holy and blameless" before the Lord, even as he wished us to be
from the beginning (cf. Col 1:22; Eph 1:4). (256)
97. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the same ardour
experienced by the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk
24:13-35) and renew our "eucharistic wonder" through the splendour
and beauty radiating from the liturgical rite, the efficacious sign
of the infinite beauty of the holy mystery of God. Those disciples
arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem in order to share their joy
with their brothers and sisters in the faith. True joy is found in
recognizing that the Lord is still with us, our faithful companion
along the way. The Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen
from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his
body. Of this mystery of love we have become witnesses. Let us
encourage one another to walk joyfully, our hearts filled with
wonder, towards our encounter with the Holy Eucharist, so that we
may experience and proclaim to others the truth of the words with
which Jesus took leave of his disciples: "Lo, I am with you always,
until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 22 February,
the Feast of the Chair of Peter, in the year 2007, the second of my
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
(1) Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, q. 73,
(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,
(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
(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,
(53) Cf. Propositio 15.
(54) Cf. Propositio 7; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter
Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 36: AAS 95 (2003),
(55) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), 18: AAS 77
(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.
(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),
(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,
(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),
(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),
(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),
(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
(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
(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
(102) Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily (8 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006),
(103) Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,
(104) Propositio 4.
(105) Relatio post disceptationem, 4: L'Osservatore
Romano, 14 October 2005, p. 5.
(106) Cf. Serm. 1, 7; 11, 10; 22, 7; 29, 76: Sermones
dominicales ad fidem codicum nunc denuo editi, Grottaferrata,
1977, pp. 135, 209ff., 292ff.; 337; Benedict XVI, Message to
Ecclesial Movements and New Communities (22 May 2006): AAS 98
(107) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes,
(108) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 2, 4.
(109) Propositio 33.
(110) Sermo 227, 1: PL 38, 1099.
(111) In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 21, 8: PL 35,
(112) Ibid., 28, 1: PL 35, 1622.
(113) Cf. Propositio 30. Weekday Masses, which the
faithful are encouraged to attend, find their proper form on the day
of the Lord, the day of Christ's resurrection; Propositio 43.
(114) Cf. Propositio 2.
(115) Cf. Propositio 25.
(116) Cf. Propositio 19. Propositio 25 states: "An
authentic liturgical action expresses the sacredness of the
eucharistic mystery. This should be evident from the words and
actions of the priest who celebrates, as he intercedes to God the
Father both with the faithful and on their behalf."
(117) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 22; Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41; cf. Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis
Sacramentum (25 March 2004), 19-25: AAS 96 (2004), 555-557.
(118) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the
Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus,
14; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium,
(119) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 22.
(120) Cf. ibid.
(121) Cf. Propositio 25.
(122) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112-130.
(123) Cf. Propositio 27.
(124) Cf. ibid.
(125) In these matters the provisions of the General
Instruction of the Roman Missal, 319-351, are to be faithfully
(126) Cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 39-41;
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112-118.
(127) Sermo 34, 1: PL 38, 210.
(128) Cf. Propositio 25: "Like every artistic expression,
singing must be closely adapted to the liturgy and contribute
effectively to its aim; in other words, it must express faith,
prayer, wonder and love of Jesus present in the Eucharist."
(129) Cf. Propositio 29.
(130) Cf. Propositio 36.
(131) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116; General
Instruction of the Roman Missal, 41.
(132) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 28; cf.
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 56; Sacred Congregation of
Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium (25 May 1967), 3:
AAS 57 (1967), 540-543.
(133) Cf. Propositio 18.
(135) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 29.
(136) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio
(14 September 1998), 13: AAS 91 (1999), 15-16.
(137) Saint Jerome, Comm. in Is., Prol.: PL 24, 17; cf.
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine
Revelation Dei Verbum, 25.
(138) Cf. Propositio 31.
(139) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 29; cf.
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7, 33, 52.
(140) Cf. Propositio 19.
(141) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52.
(142) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 21.
(143) To this end the Synod has called for the preparation of
pastoral aids based on the three-year lectionary, to help connect
the proclamation of the readings with the doctrine of the faith; cf.
(144) Cf. Propositio 20.
(145) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 78.
(146) Cf. ibid., 78-79.
(147) Cf. Propositio 22.
(148) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 79d.
(149) Ibid., 79c.
(150) Taking into account ancient and venerable customs and the
wishes expressed by the Synod Fathers, I have asked the competent
curial offices to study the possibility of moving the sign of peace
to another place, such as before the presentation of the gifts at
the altar. To do so would also serve as a significant reminder of
the Lord's insistence that we be reconciled with others before
offering our gifts to God (cf. Mt 5:23 ff.); cf.
(151) Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of
the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (25
March 2004), 80-96: AAS 96 (2004), 574-577.
(152) Cf. Propositio 34.
(153) Cf. Propositio 35.
(154) Cf. Propositio 24.
(155) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14-20; 30ff.; 48ff;
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (25 March
2004), 36-42: AAS 96 (2004), 561-564.
(156) No. 48.
(158) Cf. Congregation for the Clergy, Instruction on Certain
Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non- Ordained Faithful
in the Ministry of Priests Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August
1997): AAS 89 (1997), 852-877.
(159) Cf. Propositio 33.
(160) General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 92.
(161) Cf. ibid., 94.
(162) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the
Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem, 24;
General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 95-111; Congregation
for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction
Redemptionis Sacramentum (25 March 2004), 43-47: AAS 96 (2004),
564-566; Propositio 33: "These ministries must be introduced
in accordance with a specific mandate and in accordance with the
real needs of the celebrating community. Those entrusted with these
liturgical services must be chosen with care, well prepared, and
provided with ongoing formation. Their appointment must be for a
limited term. They must be known to the community and be gratefully
acknowledged by the community."
(163) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37-42.
(164) Cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal,
(165) Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of
the Sacraments, Instruction on the Roman Liturgy and Inculturation
Varietates Legitimae (25 January 1994): AAS 87 (1995), 288-314.
(166) Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa
(14 September 1995), 55-71: AAS 88 (1996), 34-47; Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America (22 January 1999),
16, 40, 64, 70-72: AAS 91 (1999), 752-753, 775-776, 799, 805-809;
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia (6
November 1999), 21ff.: AAS 92 (2000), 482-487; Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania (22 November 2001),
16: AAS 94 (2002), 382-384; Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in Europa (28 June 2003), 58-60: AAS 95 (2003),
(167) Cf. Propositio 26.
(168) Cf. Propositio 35; Second Vatican Ecumenical
Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum
(169) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1388; Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 55.
(170) Cf. Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17
April 2003), 34: AAS 95 (2003), 456.
(171) See, for example, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae,
III, q. LXXX, a. 1, 2; Saint Teresa of Jesus, The Way of
Perfection, Chapter 35. The doctrine was authoritatively
confirmed by the Council of Trent, Session XIII, c. VIII.
(172) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint (25
May 1995), 8: AAS 87 (1995), 925-926.
(173) Cf. Propositio 41; Second Vatican Ecumenical
Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 8, 15;
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995),
46: AAS 87 (1995), 948; Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia
(17 April 2003), 45-46: AAS 95 (2003), 463-464; Code of Canon Law,
can. 844 §§ 3-4; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can.
671 §§ 3-4; Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,
Directoire pour l'application des principes et des normes sur
l'œcuménisme (25 March 1993), 125, 129-131: AAS 85 (1993), 1087,
(174) Cf. Nos. 1398-1401.
(175) Cf. No. 293.
(176) Cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Pastoral
Instruction on Social Communications on the Twentieth Anniversary of
"Communio et Progressio" Aetatis Novae (22 February 1992):
AAS 84 (1992), 447-468.
(177) Cf. Propositio 29.
(178) Cf. Propositio 44.
(179) Cf. Propositio 48.
(180) Candidates for the priesthood can be introduced to these
traditions as part of their seminary training: cf. Propositio
(181) Cf. Propositio 37.
(182) Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum
Concilium, 36, 54.
(183) Propositio 36.
(184) Cf. ibid.
(185) Cf. Propositio 32.
(186) Cf. Propositio 14.
(187) Propositio 19.
(188) Cf. Propositio 14.
(189) Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily at First Vespers of Pentecost (3
June 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 509.
(190) Cf. Propositio 34.
(191) Enarrationes in Psalmos 98:9, CCL XXXIX, 1385; cf.
Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005):
AAS 98 (2006), 44-45.
(192) Cf. Propositio 6.
(193) Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December
2005): AAS 98 (2006), 45.
(194) Cf. Propositio 6; Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directory on Popular Piety
and the Liturgy (17 December 2001), Nos. 164-165, Vatican City,
2002; Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum
Mysterium (25 May 1967): AAS 57 (1967), 539-573.
(195) Cf. Relatio post disceptationem, 11:
L'Osservatore Romano, 14 October 2005, p. 5.
(196) Cf. Propositio 28.
(197) Cf. No. 314.
(198) VII, 10, 16: PL 32, 742.
(199) Benedict XVI, Homily at Marienfeld Esplanade (21 August
2005): AAS 97 (2005), 892; cf. Homily for the Vigil of Pentecost (3
June 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 505.
(200) Cf. Relatio post disceptationem, 6, 47:
L'Osservatore Romano, 14 October 2005, pp. 5-6; Propositio
(201) De Civitate Dei, X, 6: PL 41, 284.
(202) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368.
(203) Cf. Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 20, 7: PG 7,
(204) Ad Magnes., 9, 1: PG 5, 670.
(205) Cf. I Apologia, 67, 1-6; 66: PG 6, 430ff., 427, 430.
(206) Cf. Propositio 30.
(207) Cf. AAS 90 (1998), 713-766.
(208) Propositio 30.
(209) Homily (19 March 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 324.
(210) The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,
258, rightly notes in this regard: "For man, bound as he is to the
necessity of work, this rest opens to the prospect of a fuller
freedom, that of the eternal Sabbath (cf. Heb 4:9-10). Rest
gives men and women the possibility to remember and experience anew
God's work, from Creation to Redemption, to recognize themselves as
his work (cf. Eph 2:10), and to give thanks for their lives
and for their subsistence to him who is their author."
(211) Cf. Propositio 10.
(212) Cf. ibid.
(213) Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Canada – Quebec
during their Visit ad Limina (11 May 2006): cf. L'Osservatore
Romano, 12 May 2006, p. 5.
(214) No. 10: AAS 71 (1979), 414-415.
(215) Benedict XVI, General Audience of 29 March 2006:
L'Osservatore Romano, 30 March 2006, p. 4.
(216) Propositio 39.
(217) Cf. Relatio post disceptationem, 30:
L'Osservatore Romano, 14 October 2005, p. 6.
(218) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 39-42.
(219) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 14, 16: AAS 81 (1989),
(220) Cf. Propositio 39.
(221) Cf. ibid.
(222) The Roman Pontifical, Rites of Ordination of a
Bishop, of Priests and of Deacons, Ordination of a Priest, No.
(223) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 19-33; 70-81: AAS 84
(1992), 686-712; 778-800.
(224) Propositio 38.
(225) Propositio 39. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (25 March 1996), 95:
AAS 88 (1996), 470-471.
(226) Code of Canon Law, can. 663 § 1.
(227) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Vita Consecrata (25 March 1996), 34: AAS 88 (1996), 407-408.
(228) Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August
1993), 107: AAS 85 (1993), 1216-1217.
(229) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25
December 2005), 14: AAS 98 (2006), 229.
(230) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae
(25 March 1995): AAS 87 (1995), 401-522; Benedict XVI, Address to
the Pontifical Academy for Life (27 February 2006): AAS 98 (2006),
(231) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal
Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in
Political Life (24 November 2002): AAS 96 (2004), 359-370.
(232) Cf. Propositio 46.
(233) AAS 97 (2005), 711.
(234) Propositio 42.
(235) Cf. Mart. Polycarp., XV, 1: PG 5, 1039, 1042.
(236) Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ad. Rom., IV, 1: PG 5,
(237) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 42.
(238) Cf. Propositio 42; Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith, Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of
Jesus Christ and the Church Dominus Iesus (6 August 2000),
13- 15: AAS 92 (2000), 754-755.
(239) Cf. Propositio 42.
(240) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25
December 2005), 18: AAS 98 (2006), 232.
(241) Ibid., 14.
(242) During the Synod sessions we heard very moving and
significant testimonies about the effectiveness of the Eucharist in
peacemaking. In this regard, Propositio 49 states that:
"Thanks to eucharistic celebrations, peoples engaged in conflict
have been able to gather around the word of God, hear his prophetic
message of reconciliation through gratuitous forgiveness, and
receive the grace of conversion which allows them to share in the
same bread and cup."
(243) Cf. Propositio 48.
(244) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25
December 2005), 28: AAS 98 (2006), 239.
(245) Propositio 48.
(246) Benedict XVI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to
the Holy See (9 January 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 127.
(248) Cf. Propositio 48. In this regard, the Compendium
of the Social Doctrine of the Church has proved most helpful.
(249) Cf. Propositio 43.
(250) Cf. Propositio 47.
(251) Cf. Propositio 17.
(252) Martyrium Saturnini, Dativi et aliorum plurimorum,
7, 9, 10: PL 8, 707, 709-710.
(253) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de
Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 53: AAS 95 (2003), 469.
(254) Eucharistic Prayer I (Roman Canon).
(255) Propositio 50.
(256) Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily (8 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006),