Ninth General Congregation

Ninth General Congregation

12th Synod of Bishops




At 16:30 today Friday,10 October 2008, with the prayer Adsumus, led by the Holy Father, the Ninth General Congregation began, for the continuation of the interventions by the Synod Fathers in the Hall on the Synodal theme The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church and for the first report on the implementation of “Sacramentum caritatis” presented by H.Em. R. Card. Angelo SCOLA, Patriarch of Venice (ITALY).

President Delegate on duty was H.Em Card. George PELL, Archbishop of Sydney (AUSTRALIA).

At the opening of the Ninth General Congregation, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops communicated the members of the Commission for the Message, published in this Bulletin.


In this Ninth General Congregation the following Fathers intervened:

- H.E. Most. Rev. Cornelius Fontem ESUA, Archbishop of Bamenda (CAMEROON)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Francis DENIAU, Bishop of Nevers (FRANCE)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Antonio MENEGAZZO, M.C.C.J., Titular Bishop of Mesarfelta, El Obeid (SUDAN)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Raymondo DAMASCENO ASSIS, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of Latin American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.AM.) (BRAZIL)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Lucio Andrice MUANDULA, Bishop of Xai-Xai (MOZAMBIQUE)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Ramzi GARMOU, Archbishop of Teheran of the Chaldeans, President of the Episcopal Conference Patriarcal Administrator of Ahwaz the Chaldeans (IRAN)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Fidèle AGBATCHI, Archbishop of Parakou (BENIN)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Dionisio LACHOVICZ, O.S.B.M., Titular Bishop of Egnazia, Bishop of curia of Kyiv-Halyč (UKRAINE)

- H.E. Most. Rev. Berhaneyesus Demerew SOURAPHIEL, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba, President of the Episcopal Conference, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church (ETHIOPIA)

Below are the summaries of the interventions:

- H.E. Most. Rev. Cornelius Fontem ESUA, Archbishop of Bamenda (CAMEROON)

The Church in Cameroon, like the other young Churches in Africa has a high rate of growth. There is urgent need to deepen the faith of the neophytes, particularly the youth, who are becoming victims of materialism, secularization and relativism. A number of them have relapsed to the practice of African Traditional Religion because Christianity does not seem to answer all their questions especially in times of crises. Moreover, the African Traditional Religion and the traditional family structures on which this religion is based are collapsing. Some Christians are taking refuge in secret societies, sects and new religious movements, hoping to find in them security and answers to the deeper questions of life.

Fortunately, there is a growing thirst and hunger for the Word of God. It is necessary and urgent to put the Sacred Scriptures into the hands of the faithful so that they can become life for them in their professions, in their families and various life situations as well as the source and inspiration of the life and activities of the Small Christian Communities. There is also the urgency to inculturate the Christian faith and to dialogue with the African Traditional Religion. For an effective inculturation, the Word of God should be deeply rooted in the hearts of the people and become flesh in them. We therefore suggest that:

1. The Bishops' Conferences and the Dioceses give priority to the Biblical Pastoral Ministry and appoint people to promote and coordinate it at various levels in order that the Word of God may be at the basis of all our pastoral activities.

2. Priests, Religious and the laity be given appropriate formation to become agents of the Biblical Apostolate. A course on the Biblical Pastoral Ministry be introduced in the Seminary curriculum and in Formation Houses to prepare future priests and religious for this ministry.

3. There be general biblical formation of all the faithful, and particularly the youth, not only in specialized institutes but also through regular biblical conferences and Bible Congresses in order to make them more conscious of the importance of the Word of God in their lives.

4. Since the Christian family is the Domestic Church and the place where all education and formation in the faith begins, the Bible be enthroned in every Christian home for reading, prayer, study and veneration. Women be given appropriate biblical formation in order to be able to promote the use of the Word of God in the family.

5. The Bible be translated into the local languages as the first step of inculturation and in order to make the Word of God more accessible to the faithful in their own language. Each Christian should own a Bible, read it and make it a reference document or a “vademecum”.

6. As the Apostle Paul says: “Faith comes from hearing” (Rom. 10:17). The peoples of Africa believe strongly in the power of the word, especially the spoken word. Many of them have no access to script media either because it is too expensive or because the majority of them cannot read or write. It is necessary to provide them with the Scriptures in audio-visual form.

7. Greater emphasis be laid on the Word of God in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and of the Sacramentals.

8. Following the example of the Fathers of the Early Church, Christian formation be centered on the Word of God and the homilies be more biblical in content in order to nourish the faithful with the Word of God.

9. A Biblical Institute be established in Africa in order to promote biblical research in the context of the Church in Africa.

10. Finally, a Pontifical Council be instituted for the promotion of the teaching of Dei Verbum, particularly Chapter Six.

[Original text: English]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Francis DENIAU, Bishop of Nevers (FRANCE)

It is in studying its own mystery that the Church refers to the Jewish people (Nostra aetate 4). It is not an external reality nor is the Jewish-Christian dialogue a kind of interreligious dialogue. It even touches the interior of the Church and the mystery of faith.

Nostra aetate invites us to a Biblical dialogue. Christians have always been tempted to speak about the Jews in the past tense. In speaking about the Jewish people as our elderly brothers, John Paul II sees us as brothers belonging to the same generation. We are “co-heirs” (Jean-Marie Lustiger) of the same inheritance, the Old Testament. We read it differently. For the Jews, through the oral Torah (written in the Talmud, but pursued with many interpretations); for us through the New Testament and the Christian Tradition (without forgetting that for us well oral tradition precedes the written one), in insisting on the unity of the two Testaments, around the figure of Christ Jesus.

The Jewish-pharisaic reading and the Christian reading have developed simultaneously. For us Christians, the Jewish reading, completely different from ours, is not any less possible or legitimate and can teach us a lot (22).

Central points: that our reading of the Old Testament should leave space for the Jewish reading; that our reading of the NT should not create antisemitism; to speak about Jews in the present tense and not in the past tense; to revisit the idea of achievement (PcB 21); to underline the eschatological dimension of expectations common to Jews and Christians, even if they are very different; to be attentive to the universal mission present in the Jewish tradition; even if the “no” of the Jews to Jesus hurts us, we have to try to perceive what the Jews see as faithfulness to God and to their own vocation; to study in depth Romans 9-11; to promote dialogue beyond the specialistic kind, in the parishes and the movements.

[Original text: French]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Antonio MENEGAZZO, M.C.C.J., Titular Bishop of Mesarfelta, El Obeid (SUDAN)

In Sudan there is a great hunger for the Word of God and this is proven by the large number of Christians that call for the Bible.

Our Christians await from this Assembly help to more easily reach the Word of God: that is to say, making the Bible more accessible to all classes of the population, especially with translations in the various languages of the tribes.

Priests, religious persons are committed to spreading, praying the Bible with groups of faithful and in guiding these groups to the right understanding of the Word of God, however greater effort is required of them.

The Word of God has not penetrated deeply enough in the heart and mind of many of our Christians: they still have not managed to completely change their mentality: their culture has not been purified by the Word of God. Very often they are incapable of finding a solution to their problems and still turn, rather too easily, to the old customs.

Lack of education is rather wide-spread and often God speaks to them in a language they do not understand. Furthermore, the Bible has only been translated into a few of the languages of the many tribes. We expect a greater effort on the part of the Church and Catholic organizations to help with translations and train experts for these translations.
The Word of God is the center of Christian life and therefore should be the center of preparation of the catechumens to Baptism. In Sudan, the majority of catechumens do not know how to read or write: as a result of this to prepare them properly for Baptism, the Catechists must explain the Word to them with posters, drawings and their own words. This poses a great dilemma: poorly prepared Catechists, since they are poorly educated, and catechumens who wish to become disciples of Christ: they learn catechism and the truth of the holy faith by rote, with a poor knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures.

What is to be done? Can they be baptized? We must not forget that the grace of God also works in these new humble Christians.

We have another great challenge for Justice and Peace, and forgiveness and reconciliation, after 21 years of civil war between the North and South of the country, after so much hatred, injustice and suffering. Even after the peace treaty between North and South, the situation is not at all clear or encouraging. And let us not forget the war in Darfur, which continues with no sign of improvement on the situation. We are convinced that the solution for a peaceful future can only be found in faith in God and to His Word.

Eucharist and Word of God, the binomial that can bring peace and serenity to all hearts: but what can we do when the distances are enormous and the lack of security because of wars and banditry makes contact between priests and the faithful very difficult and dangerous? And the lack of priests is another negative factor. Many Christians can receive the Word of God and the Eucharist only rarely, perhaps a few times a year. What is required is more missionary spirit throughout the clergy and more generosity from the countries rich in clergy to help those who find themselves in serious need.

[Original text: Italian]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Raymondo DAMASCENO ASSIS, Archbishop of Aparecida, President of Latin American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.AM.) (BRAZIL)

Vatican Council II made an affirmation that appears obvious, but is not so in reality, and thus opened up a wide horizon. It affirms that Sacred Scripture, the Word of God written “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (DV 11) is “like the soul of sacred theology” (DV 24), as well as “the support and vigor of the Church and, for the children of the Church, the strength of their faith, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life” (DV 21). This last affirmation took shape during the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held last year in Aparecida, when a change of perspective was proposed, a change that consists of moving from a Biblical pastoralism to “a Biblical animation of the whole of the pastoral” (DA 248).Therefore, such indications have a direct repercussion on the formation of future priests. Priestly formation in today’s world has to place the Word of God at its center as His Holiness Benedict XVI reminded us in his opening speech at Aparecida: “At the start of this new phase the Missionary Church of Latin America and the Caribbean is about to set out on [...] a profound knowledge of the Word of God is absolutely indispensable”. On that occasion the Pontiff also spoke of the urgent need “to base our missionary efforts and all our lives on the rock that is the Word of God” (DA 247).

In the current context of Latin America and the Caribbean it is necessary and urgent that the formation project and the planning of seminaries, other than privileging an academic formation in the Holy Scriptures, takes greater care to train the young in a solid Biblical spirituality, making creative use of all the means available and paying particular attention to the Lectio Divinis. The challenge is to ensure that the priests of the future, from the start of their formal formation, learn to look at their lives in the mirror of the Word of God and that they attain knowledge of God at the living spring of his Word. With this aim, it is necessary that they learn to be always and profoundly in touch with the Word of God not just for functional motives, in other words for academic or pastoral reasons, but with the aim that this constitutive and structural element should forge their plan of life during their initial formation and continue to do so even after they have been ordained. Equally, without ever renouncing the higher level of Biblical studies a future priest has to undertake, we must not forget that his work will take place principally in the ecclesial community. This also renders necessary and urgent a scrupulous preparation to be able to carry out a suitable “Biblical animation of the pastoral”, without losing sight of the fact that, by its nature, the gift of the prophetic Word requires ministers who are pedagogues of the faith and who know how to place “at the start” of every Church activity the living and invigorating seed of the Holy Word.

Finally, it is necessary that future priests learn to eat every day of the Bread of the Word and to meet Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. Only in this way will they be able to forge a solid and vigorous spirituality, fed on the Gospel, and thus be able to ensure that the Word of God be really “the spirit of evangelization and the announcement of Jesus to all” (DA 248).

[Original text: Spanish]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Lucio Andrice MUANDULA, Bishop of Xai-Xai (MOZAMBIQUE)

Recalling the accurate plea by John Paul II to humanity: “Peoples everywhere, open the doors to Christ! His Gospel in no way detracts from man’s freedom, from the respect that is owed to every culture and to whatever is good in each religion” (RM 3) and considering that “the Synod intends to treat the topic of the Word with which ‘the invisible God (cf. Col 1:15, 1 Tim 1:17), out of the abundance of his love, speaks to men as friends (cf. Ex. 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and lives among them (cf. Bar 3:38), so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself’ (DV 2)” [Cf. Instrumentum laboris, no.4], it would seem that the greatest contribution this Synodal Assembly could offer the Church is that of recuperating the relevance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

Not all the faithful know the Word of God and it is urgent to begin and encourage more frequent reading and meditation on the Bible. Listening to the Word of God in the Eucharistic celebration, in fact, is not enough to satisfy what the Dei Verbum recommends: “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (DV 22).
Therefore, the entire Church needs to commit to a Biblical pastoral ministry together, developed so that every single Christian family, apart from having the Word of God translated in their language, may touch upon the most elementary meaning, to transmit to their children, from generation to generation, the true content of the Saving Word of God, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh.

[Original text: Italian]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Ramzi GARMOU, Archbishop of Teheran of the Chaldeans, President of the Episcopal Conference Patriarcal Administrator of Ahwaz the Chaldeans (IRAN)

The whole Bible, from the Book of Genesis to Revelation, tells us that faithfulness to the Word of God leads to persecution. The first persecuted person, par excellence, is Jesus Himself, who suffered persecution from the first days of His birth to His death on the Cross. According to the Gospel, persecution is considered as the most eloquent sign of faithfulness to the Word of God. The growth of the Church and her own path in evangelizing people is the fruit of the persecution she was subjected to in all places and in all times. Jesus, in the Gospel, speaks very clearly about persecution (Lk 21:12-19). Let us pray to the Holy Spirit so that He may give the Church of the third millennium, in this Pauline year, the grace and joy of a true experience of persecution for its faithfulness to the Word of God.

[Original text: French]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Fidèle AGBATCHI, Archbishop of Parakou (BENIN)

Happily, the Holy Synod holds firmly to the strict identification of the Word of God with the Person of Jesus Christ, in such a way that what is said about the Word is also stated about the cycle of the Incarnate Word. On this basis, the cycle of the Word, in the different phases knowledgeable in his encounter with human culture, could be summarized as follows:

- When the Word is made flesh, he enters into human culture, he is incultured. This being done he acts on free decision, based on Love which leads us to God’s salvation. Therefore, inculturation does not only base itself on a specific practice tied to the apostolate or to liturgy, but above all to a loving initiative of God to save the fallen man from sin. The very first to achieve Inculturation in its most perfect form is therefore Jesus Christ, inculturation personified.

- In inculturating the Word incultures, He who is non-culture accepts adhering to one - which is tainted by sin - and be submitted to its influence.

- In inculturating, the Word inculturates. Human culture is influenced by the Word, which comes with it. The Word proposes and impresses its divine influence, which presupposes that culture is open to welcome this influence and to gain something of the divinity.

In this whole process, the Word decultures. Like the grape-picker prunes the vine, the Word means to tear away those elements in culture that do not conform to its image. This is what Yahweh achieves when he tells Israel to never again say on his world: “The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; the children's teeth are set on edge." This is the same battle Jesus Christ fights in trying to eradicate sin and its consequences from culture. This battle, Jesus takes it even as far as the destruction of the Temple which he proposes rebuilding at the end of three days. And like the Temple of His Body arises from the tomb, thus decultured culture acquires the promise of life through the Resurrection of Christ.

This complex Paschal adventure is where the process of inculturation takes place, which must be simultaneously and adequately discerned in all its phases, to avoid the risks of regrettable drifting during the practice.

As Incarnation is the future of the world, thus Inculturation is the future of all forms of apostolate, be it Biblical, kerygmatic or sacramental. In this sense, I would like to advance these proposals:

- that the kerygma today be covered with the same eschatological color as at the beginnings of the Church. The future of faith is in heaven, but heaven is already on earth with salvation in Jesus Christ. This should be taught and lived.

- That the method of inculturation be inscribed in a straight line with the movement unfettered by the Word in Incarnation, he whom we have called Inculturation personified.

[Original text: French]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Dionisio LACHOVICZ, O.S.B.M., Titular Bishop of Egnazia, Bishop of curia of Kyiv-Halyč (UKRAINE)

The first observation concerns the unity of the Word with both Baptism and the Eucharist:
Instrumentum laboris states that “Christians have two realities in common: the Word of God and Baptism” (No. 54). This should be studied, because otherwise it might appear to be a half-unity, since, in number 35, it is stated that an intimate unity between the Word and Eucharist also exists, with the support of quotations from Church Tradition: “Corpus Christi intelligitur etiam Scriptura Dei”, or in the words of Saint Jerome: “It is, indeed, true food and true beverage the Word of God that is attained from the knowledge of the Scriptures”. The Second Vatican Council also affirms that the Word and Eucharist form “one single act of worship” (SC 56).

To sum up, the intimate unity between the Word and Baptism, as between the Word and the Eucharist, is affirmed.

In these terms, it becomes difficult to understand, from the point of view of Ecumenism, why the Eucharist cannot be celebrated with the Orthodox (for example), while we can celebrate the sacrament of the Word of God with them and we also have Baptism in common. If this unity between the Word, Baptism and Eucharist exists, why deny Eucharistic communion?

On the other hand, with the same logic of unity, but in reverse, as was said by the Orthodox Archbishop (Agostino di Lviv, from the Theological Commission of the Patriarchate of Moscow), when Eucharistic communion does not exist, the Word cannot be celebrated together nor can we pray the “Our Father” together with Catholics. Thus with this logic, from the Orthodox point of view Catholic Baptism cannot be accepted as valid, as affirmed sometimes during ecumenical encounters. Nor is it possible to call each other “brothers”.

A second observation concerning “Ecumenism and the Word of God”:
How can we read and comment on the Word of God with other Confessions, for example, the text “May they all be one” (Jn 17: 20), when we cannot incarnate this Word?

The Word becomes sterile. When you are not able or you do not want to incarnate this Word, then why read it? Pope Benedict XVI says this, that the world awaits “a response to listening to the Word” (Inst. 54).

We have a feeling that everything that is said about ecumenism is being said for others, for a “third” party, absent at the time it was said. As if this Word could make a miracle but we remain the same.

An example, in the Ukraine we prepared an ecumenical translation of the Bible, with the collaboration of the Orthodox and the Protestants, but we cannot pray or celebrate together with them.

And the third observation:

It seems to me also that we are running the risk of exploiting the Word of God. This could become an “instrument” of discussion, of study, of dialogue, of encounter, even of common prayer, it remains superficial, without the strength to change, it does not lead to the common mystery of the celebration of the Word, it does not become flesh-sarx, that is to say does not become incarnate in the person’s life and in that of one’s own Church.

One could learn the whole Bible by heart, discuss it competently, but remain outside of it, without nourishing one’s self with it, without being incorporated in Christ, without being baptized in Christ.

Perhaps this detachment between the Word and life is the real impediment to Christian unity. The Churches prefer the words, but do not give to the Word of God the necessary witness. Maybe the Word is too “canonized”, sterilized, which creates an obstacle to the diaconia, the koinonia and also the martiria..

Therefore, we have to be responsible before the Word of God. No doubt, a lot is said about the responsibility of bringing the Word to others, about preaching the Word, but perhaps less is said about the responsibility of the person who preaches it, about their own Church and the Churches responsibility to the Word of God. How can one then understand the saying that the Word of God is read in the Church, with the Church and, for the Church? Maybe Saint Paul’s warning should be taken more seriously: “When someone is under instruction in doctrine, he should give his teacher a share in all his possessions. Don't delude yourself: God is not to be fooled” (Ga 6: 6).

[Original text: Italian]

- H.E. Most. Rev. Berhaneyesus Demerew SOURAPHIEL, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba, President of the Episcopal Conference, President of the Council of the Ethiopian Church (ETHIOPIA)

1) The Word of God was the source of Ethiopic Literature. The Bible was translated into Ethiopic between the 4th and the 6th century AD.

2) Some books are preserved in their entirety only in Classical Ethiopic and parts of the Ethiopian Biblical Canon are precious for biblical scholarship;
The Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees are important works for understanding the context of Second Temple Judaism, Qumran and the origins of Christianity. They are also significant for the study of apocalyptic literature.

3) The Ethiopian Bible society is doing a lot for the translation of the Bible in local and regional languages (inc1uding cassettes, CDs, a device called "Proclaimer" which works even with solar energy);

The Board Members of the Bible Society are 24: 8 from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 8 from the Catholic Church and 8 from the Evangelical Church. This is a good example for Ecumenical cooperation. The President of the Board, at the moment, is Catholic.

4) There is a project of a Catholic edition of the Bible in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia (close to the New Revised Standard Version and the Jerusalem Bible) which needs urgent funding.

5) Biblical Course by Distance Learning: organized by the archdiocese of Addis Abeba. About 3500 faithful from Addis and outside Addis are attending this course. The Archdiocese is also offering a yearly biblical course every Saturday at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady, Addis Abeba.

[Original text: English]


Therefore H.Em. R.Card Angelo SCOLA, Patriarch of Venice (ITALY), gave a Report on the Acceptance of the Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Sacramentum caritatis which followed the last XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops on the theme The Eucharist Source and Summit of Life and of the Mission of the Church.

Here below is the complete text of the Report:

Reception of the Apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum caritatis”

1. The necessary receptio

The aim of this document is to supply some data, largely of a quantitative nature , on the initial reception accorded to the pontifical teaching offered to the whole Church in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis of 22 February 2007.

The traditio catholica through which the being, life and mission of the Church are communicated requires a permanent attitude of receptio from all the people of God, especially concerning the pronouncements of the Magisterium. To use a joyous expression which the Servant of God John Paul II used in reference to the Second Vatican Council, receptio constitutes a principle of “enrichment of faith in an objective sense and a subjective sense.” (Cf. K. WOJTYLA, Alle fonti del rinnovamento: studio sull’attuazione del Concilio Vaticano II, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli 2007). It is from this point of view that we should place the data which has largely been supplied by the reports from the Episcopal Conferences in reply to a questionnaire sent out by the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops ; it is information, it should be emphasized, that expresses the “living experience of the Church” throughout the world.

First of all it is only right and proper to point out what many replies highlighted, namely that the period under consideration (February 2007 - September 2008) is too short to provide an adequate evaluation of how Sacramentum caritatis was received (this opinion was expressed by the Episcopal Conferences of Kazakhstan, Madagascar, New Zealand and the United States.) This difficulty may, however, could be overcome at least partially, as other replies emphasized, by the fact that the Apostolic Exhortation was placed in the context of the intensive renewal of the Eucharist, which has characterized the last few years. By this we are referring to certain pontifical documents: the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine, the Instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament Redemptionis Sacramentum and to certain ecclesial events: the Great Jubilee of 2000, the Year of the Eucharist and the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara in October 2004. This was the opinion expressed, for example, by the replies from New Zealand, Ghana, Spain, Bangladesh, France, the United States, Ireland, Belgium and Liechtenstein. The Sacramentum caritatis proved of enormous value to the recent International Eucharistic Congress held in Quebec, Canada.

2. The Sacramentum caritatis in the teaching of Benedict XVI

His Holiness Benedict XVI was the first to contribute to the reception of the Apostolic Exhortation by returning to certain of its themes on a number of occasions. Here is a list of the main occasions, more than twenty, on which the Holy Father intervened.

During the Angelus, explicit mention was made on 18 March 2007 and 10 June 2007, while it was mentioned implicitly on 11 November 2007.

In the General Audience on 14 March 2007.

In a number of particularly significant homilies: the Homily of the Solemnity of Corpus Domini on 7 June 2007 and the Homily for the Holy Mass for the Inauguration of the V General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopacy at the Shrine of the Aparecida on 13 May 2007.

In numerous speeches and addresses: to the members of the Papal Foundation on 20 April 2007; to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Central African Republic visiting Ad limina apostolorum on 1 June 2007; to participants of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches on 21 June 2007; to participants at the XII World Congress of the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care on 6 September 2007; to members of the Episcopal Conference of Portugal visiting Ad limina apostolorum on 10 November 2007; to the Bishops of Korea and the Apostolic Prefect of Ulan Bator (Mongolia) visiting Ad limina apostolorum on 3 December 2007; to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Slovenia visiting Ad limina apostolorum on 24 January 2008; to the participants of the National Assembly of the Italian Federation for Spiritual Exercises on 9 February 2008; during the Celebration of Vespers and meeting with Bishops from the United States on 16 April 2008; to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan visiting Ad limina apostolorum on 19 June 2008; to the Bishops of Nicaragua visiting Ad limina apostolorum on 6 September 2008.

In a number of Messages: the Message for the XXIII World Youth Day on 20 July 2007; the Message for the XVI World Day of the Sick on 11 January 2008; the Message for the XLV World Day of Prayer for Vocations on 13 April 2008.

Finally, we can mention a number of Letters: Letter to Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Archbishop Emeritus of Munich, 1 May 2007; Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, 27 May 2007; Letter on the occasion of the XVI centenary of the death of St. John Chrysostom, 10 August 2007; Letter to the Prior General of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Formula Vitae, 14 August 2007; Letter on the occasion of the XII Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, 8 November 2007; Letter to Cardinal Josef Tomko, Papal Legate at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, 9 April 2008.

It is not possible here even to hint at the contents of all the contributions made by the Holy Father. We will just point out the two most frequent concepts, the affirmation of two crucial propositions of the doctrine on the Eucharist: the fact that in “the Eucharist Christ wanted to give us his love, which impelled him to offer his life for us on the Cross” (Angelus, 18 March 2007) and the awareness that “The Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration.” (Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, 9 April 2008)

3. The reception of Sacramentum Caritatis in the local Church

What has been the reception among local Churches around the world?

On 25 January 2008 the General Secretariat of the Synod sent a questionnaire to the Episcopal Conferences and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia to find out reactions to the Sacramentum Caritatis.

The following questions were asked:

Was the Apostolic Exhortation translated into your local language, as well as those translated by the Holy See, Latin, Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and German?
How many copies were published?
Is it available online?
How was Sacramentum Caritatis received?
What impact did it have in Church circles?
Did it foster more devotion and better attendance in the celebration of the Holy Mass?
Did it foster Eucharistic Worship, including Perpetual Eucharistic Worship?
How was it perceived by members of Churches and Christian communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church?
Were any social initiatives inspired by the Exhortation carried out?

Any other observations and remarks.

In its report to the Secretariat of the Synod, the Congregation of Bishops noted that many Episcopal Conferences had studied the document during their assemblies. For its part the Congregation for Divine Worship reported that a number of questions that had emerged during the work of the Synod had been subject to further study (Eucharistic Compendium, Aids for Thematic Homilies, the location of the Sign of Peace, alternative formulas to Ite Missa Est.)

By 30 September the Secretariat General of the Synod had received a total of 57 replies to the 152 questionnaires that had been sent out. 16 replies from the 25 Dicasteries of the Roman Curia consulted; 31 from the 113 Episcopal Conferences consulted; 3 replies from the 13 Eastern Churches consulted and the reply of the Union of Superior Generals. The reply rate was more than a third: 37.5%. The replies were received from all the continents, which reinforces the quality of the proffered information.

All the replies, except two (Scandinavian countries and the Congregation for the Clergy) reported a generally good and meaningful welcome for the Apostolic Exhortation.
Further proof of this is provided by the fact that translations in languages other than those habitually provided by the Holy See were done, at the moment of publication of the document. Complete translations of Sacramentum Caritatis were made in Russian, Slovenian, Catalan, Danish, Croatian, Hungarian, Dutch, Czech, Lithuanian and Arabic.

There is also a partial translation in Swedish and short summaries have been made in local languages in Ghana. Numerous replies called for greater efforts to be made in this direction (particularly significant in this respect were the replies from the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines and the Union of Superiors General.)

Also significant was the great number of presentation events linked to the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation - in an academic context (Faculties of Theology or Seminaries) as well as in Pastoral circles. The Document was also studied during courses of permanent formation of the clergy, in the schools of theology for the laity and, in an understandable way, with liturgical workers. Of particular significance is the fact that Sacramentum Caritatis inspired many spiritual retreats. From the further study that took place in these three fields (pastoral-training, spiritual and academic) we have explicit testimonials from Bolivia, New Zealand, Brasil, Slovenia, Spain, Bangladesh, Romania, Australia Congo, France, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United States, Morocco, Pakistan, Zambia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, England, India, Portugal, Peru, Australia, the Philippines, and Benin.

Secondly, the document took on a certain importance in the pastoral programs of Episcopal Conferences, dioceses and parishes (Bolivia, New Zealand, England, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Romania, Zambia, and Portugal).

As for the acceptance of Sacramentum Caritatis into liturgical practice in local Churches two pieces of data, from the answers, appear to us to be particularly significant. Firstly, the positive influence the Exhortation has had on the ars celebrandi, especially in the Sunday Eucharist (Bolivia, Ghana, Brasil, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ireland, Russia, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Zambia, Portugal, Australia, Benin, Lithuania and Peru). The second piece of news regards the strong impulse given by the Exhortation to the Adoration of the Eucharist (New Zealand, Ghana, Bangladesh, Romania, Congo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, the United States, Ireland, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Hungary, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Korea, Madagascar, Peru and Lithuania).Particularly noteworthy is the news of the increase in the practice of the Adoration of the Eucharist on the part of the young (Council for the Laity).Other answers highlight the contribution the Exhortation is offering to the renewal of popular devotion (Bolivia, Spain, the United States, Portugal, the Philippines and the Council for Culture).

From the ecumenical point of view, the replies of the Episcopal Conferences highlighted some difficulties. To the question How was it perceived by members of Churches and Christian communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church? the majority stated they had had no reply (Bolivia, Brasil, Slovenia, Spain, Bangladesh, Congo, France, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United States, Morocco, Pakistan, Hungary, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Egypt, Liechtenstein, Australia, Portugal, Zambia, the Philippines and Peru). When there was a reply, it tended to have as its subject the academic or specialist field. This is the case in Romania, France and the United States. There was a positive welcome on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In New Zealand the document was studied by a commission for Anglican-Catholic dialogue. As for the reactions on the part of the specialists these were of a different tenor: some underlined the importance of the Eucharist as a sacrament of charity (Ghana and the United States), others, while recognizing the importance of the document, criticized the Catholic discipline on Eucharistic hospitality (Norway, France, Australia and the United States). It is useful, finally, to bear in mind the importance given by the French Episcopal Conference to the negative influence of the mass media’s reporting of the document’s reception, in general and in the ecumenical field.

The answers to the question Were any social initiatives inspired by the Exhortation carried out? refer on the one hand to the period of time passed being too short to formulate an answer but, on the other, reveal a certain timidity in putting forward the social dimension of Eucharistic action. Some replies simply ignore the question, others recognize they have little to say (Romania, Congo, the Scandinavian countries, the United States, Pakistan, Russia, Hungary, Madagascar, Egypt, Australia, the Philippines and Liechtenstein, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace). Those who answered in the affirmative refer particularly to action in situations of marginalization and need - normally Caritas initiatives - (Bolivia, Bangladesh, France, Benin, India, Portugal, Peru and the Czech Republic), to the Eucharist-love-peace connection (Ghana and Zambia), to pastoral social programs (Australia and Brazil), to the work of formation for the social doctrine of the Church (Australia) and the safeguarding of creation (France and Peru). Spain offers a significant contribution: the insistence on charitable works on the occasion of the celebrations of jubilee years in various dioceses.

This brief summary can be enriched with a few references to specific problems or questions. The importance of liturgical inculturation was recalled in the answers of the Episcopal Conferences of Bangladesh, Congo and Pakistan. A certain difficulty in reception caused by its closeness to the publication of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum was pointed out by the French Episcopal Conference. From Egypt came the request to offer, in future, practical aid along with the documents, and from Australia came the request for aid with homilies. In Hungary, the Exhortation favored a small increase in the use of Latin and Gregorian chant. Finally, Spain underlined strongly the importance of the “Eucharistic form” of the Christian life which has to aim for Eucharistic coherence (cf the answer of the Council for the Family).

4. The reception of the Sacramentum caritatis in theological literature

Above and before anything else, we should give the news of the publication of the volume of the acts of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops entitled: Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Church’s Communion (edited by Roberto Nardin, Lateran University Press, Vatican City 2008, pp 1032).

A word on how the theological community welcomed the Apostolic Exhortation. Obviously, this is not the place to consider the numerous introductions (volumes or articles in pastoral or widely read publications) that accompanied the publication of the various translations of the Sacramentum Cartatis.

Among the theological studies, by way of example, we can cite;

- A. MATTEEUWS - A. MASSIE, Guide de lecture pour l’Exhortation apostolique post-synoadle Sacramentum Cartatis, Édition Fidelité, Bruxelles 2007;

- B. LE PIVAIN, Le sacrament de l’amour, in Kephas (2007) no 22;

- H. KALB - S. LEDERHILGER, Römische Erlässe, in Theologisch-praktische Quartalschrift 135 (2008) no. 1, 81-87;

- U. RUH, Unspektakülar: das nachsynodale Schreiben “Sacramentum Cartatis” Benedikts XVI, in Herder-Krrespondenz 61 (2007) no. 4, 166;

- G. MARCHESI. L’Eucharistia: “sacramento della carità”, in La Civiltà Cattolica, 158 (2007) no. 3764, 169-178;

- G. CAMPANINI - F MONACO - V. TRAPANI, Sacramento dell’amore,Paoline, Milano 2007;

- A. SCOLA, Il segno supremo dell’amore di Dio. Invite alla lettura di “Sacramentum Cartatis”, in La Nuova Alleanza 112 (2007) no. 4, 30-40;

- Id., L’insegnamento di “Sacramentum Cartatis”, in La Nuova Alleanza 113 (2008) no. 2, 26-33;

- R. NARDIN - R. TANGORRA (eds), Sacramentum Cartatis. Studies and commentaries on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Lateran University Press, Vatican City 2008, pp 830. This volume contains almost 50 contributions and is enriched by an important bibliographical note on the Eucharist.

The majority of the theological contributions on the Apostolic Exhortation - we have found more than seventy - were published in Italian and Spanish.

We don’t have many theological publications from the ecumenical field. However, we do feel it is important to point out two significant contributions. The U.S. magazine Ecumenical Trends published a series of articles by non-Catholics throughout 2007:

- D. PRASSAS, The Ecumenical Eucharist. A response to Sacramentum Caritatis in Ecumenical Trends 36 (2007) no. 7, 8-11. The Greek Orthodox theologian considers the Exhortation favors a deeper reflection on Church unity.

- L. HARRIS, Eavesdropping on an Apostolic Exhortation. A response to Sacramentum Caritatis in Ecumenical Trends 36 (2007) no. 7, 12-15

- R. J. JESKE, Sacramentum Caritatis: A Response in Ecumenical Trends 36 (2007) no. 8, 9-12.15. Jeske considers the importance of the connection between liturgical action and the Gospel anouncement, considers from a Lutheran perspective .

- O. C. EDWARDS Jr, An Anglican’s reaction to Sacramentum Caritatis in Ecumenical Trends 36 (2007) no. 9, 6-9.15. Without denying the differences with Catholic doctrine he underlines a strong unity of spirit.

- A. C. VRAME, An Orthodox Christian Reflection on Sacramentum Caritatis in Ecumenical Trends 36 (2007) no. 10, 6-9.14. The article affirms the need to reflect on the action of the Spirit in the present, not just throughout the history of the Church.

- R. D. BROADNAX, The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis: A Response from a Member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church member in Ecumenical Trends 36 (2007) no. 10, 10.The text insists on the call to holiness in the Eucharist.

Furthermore, the pastor Gill Daudé, of the Federation Protestante de France, published in the Bulletin d’Information Protestante of March 22 2007, an article entitled Exhortation apostilique de Benoît XVI sur l’Eucharistie, résultant du synode ordinaire des évêques (Vatican, October 2005). Une lecture protestante, not exempt from criticism:

From the point of view of the themes dealt with we can classify the theological contributions in the following categories:

a) General presentations and summaries of the pontifical document. Some examples:

- J. L. BRUGUES, L’Eucharistie et l’urgence du mystère, in Nouvelle Revue Théologique 130 (2008) 3-25;

- J. THOMAS, L’Exhortation Apostolique “Caritatis”, in Kephas (2007) no. 22, 117-123;

- G. SÁNCHEZ ROJAS, La santísima Triiad y la Eucaristía: Una aproximación a la “Sacramentum Cartatis” de Benedicto XVI, in Revista Teológica Limense 41 (2007) 301-316;

- N. BLÁZQUEZ, El sacramento del amor, in Studium 47 (2007) 171-202;

- A. PUIG - J. FONTBONO - R. SERRA - G. MORA, La Exhortación Apostólica “Sacramentum Caritatis” de Benedicto XVI. Sesión de estudio de la Facultad de Teología de Catalunya, in Phase (2007) no. 278, 93-118;

- G. BRAMBILLA, Sacramentum Caritatis in Teologia 32 (2007) 115-122

- R. FISICHELLA, Il sentiero per Emmaus. Commento teologico-pastorale alla Sacramentum Caritatis, Lateran University Press, Vatican City 2007;

- A. SCOLA, L’esortazione apostolica postsinodale “Sacramentum Caritatis”: un atto di receptio dell’insegnamento conciliare, in Rassegna di Teologia 48 (2007), NO. 2, 165-180.

The authors of these contributions try to offer the reader a general presentation of the document’s structure and its most salient points. Normally what’s highlighted is the continuity with previous pontifical teaching - specifically with the Encyclical Deus caritas est and Ecclesia de Eucharistia - and the collegial path that has led to the publication of the Exhortation. It is particularly important to underline the intrinsic unity of the three parts of the document and, consequently, the necessity not to read them as though they were juxtaposed. Furthermore, the authors highlight the trinitarian and ecclesial horizon of the teaching of Sacramentum Caritatis on the Eucharist, the importance given to the ars celebrandi, to liturgical beauty and to logikè latreia. Some of the authors underline a number of the Exhortation’s doctrinal elaborations such as the very character of action of the Eucharist and the role of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the development of liturgical forms.

b) Elaborations on the first part (Eucharist, Mystery of faith). Some examples:

- P. TURNER, Benedict XVI and the sequence of the sacraments of initiation, in Worship 82 (2008) no. 2, 132-140;

- D. SALADO MARTÍNEZ, Fe e identitad cristiana en “clave y versión eucarísticas” (notas-guía para una lectura sustemática de la Exhortación Apostólica “Sacramentum Caritatis” , in Ciencia Tomista 135 (2008)103-165;

- ID, Notas a propósito del “lenguaje formal” aplicado a la Eucaristía: cf Exhortación Apostólica “Sacramentum Caritatis”no. 70ss , in Ciencia Tomista 135 (2008) 221-269

- G. CAVAGNOLI, Il mistero dell’Eucaristia. Una rilrettura di “Sacramentum Caritatis” (1), in La nuova alleanza 113 (2008) no. 1, 3-12.

- ID, Eucaristia e Sacramenti. Una rilrettura di “Sacramentum Caritatis” (2), in La nuova alleanza 113 (2008) no. 3, 3-12.

- J.M. FERRER GRENESCHE, La Eucaristia en la Iniciacion Cristiana, in Teologia y Catequesis (2008) n. 106, 11-27.

These are mostly systematic contributions that look in detail at a number of arguments contained in no. 6-33 of the Exhortation. Among the favored themes we can cite the following: the Trinitarian horizon of the Pope’s teaching with special reference to the themes of the gift of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son and the work of the Holy Spirit; the ecclesiality of the Eucharist with the themes following on from the Eucharistic causality of the Church sacrament and ecumenism; the centrality of the Eucharist in the sacramental organism and the order of the sacraments in Christian initiation... Many of these arguments are also referred to in the presentations of a general character on the Exhortation.

c) Elaborations on the second part (Eucharist, Mystery of celebration). Some examples:

- R GONZÁLEZ COUGIL, “Sacramentum Caritatis”, desde la perspectiva litúrgica, in Phase, (2007) no. 278, 119-126;

- M. GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ-CORPS, El adagio “Lex orandi-lex credendi” en la exhortación apostólica “Sacramentum Caritatis”, Publicaciones de la facultad de Teología San Dámaso, Madrid 2007;

- ID., El diácono y su participacion en la Misa. Al socaire de la Exhortación Sacramentum caritatis, in Teología y Catequesis (2008) n. 106, 165-186;

- E. MALNATI, “Sacramentum Caritatis”: “actuosa partecipatio” in Rivista Teologica di Lugano 12 (2007) 531-539;

- G. CAVAGNOLI, Sacramentum Caritatis: nore per una lettura (parte prima), in Rivista di Pastorale Liturgica 45 (2007) no. 5, 39-49;

- ID, Sacramentum Caritatis: nore per una lettura (parte seconda), in Rivista di Pastorale Liturgica 45 (2007) no. 6, 44-58;

- ID, La bellezza della liturgia. Una rilettura di “Sacramentum Caritatis” (3), in La nuova alleanza 113 (2008) no. 1, 3-12;

- S. GUITERAS VILANOVA, Eucaristia y mistagogía, in Teologia y Catquesis (2008) n. 106, 57-72;

- M. FANJUL, Acercamiento a la riqueza espiritual y celebrativa del Misal de Pablo VI, in Teología y Catequesis (2008) n. 106, 99-117;

- J. GONZÁLEZ PADRÓS, Formar para una participación litúrgica plena, consciente y activa, in Teología y Catequesis (2008) n. 106, 119-134.

These are contributions that considered specifically the teaching and the numerous liturgical indications of a practical nature (there are around fifty) to be found in the Apostolic Exhortation. To give some examples we can cite these arguments: the centrality of the Eucharistic act as a source of holiness and life for the Church, the importance of liturgical beauty, the ars celebrandi - actuosa partecipatio relationship, particular aspects such as the homily, singing...

d) Elaborations on the third part (Eucharist, Mystery of life). Some examples:

- R. PELLITERO, La eficacia trasformadora de la Eucaristía: Eucaristía, Iglesia y existencia cristiana en la exhortation apostólico “Sacramentum Caritatis”, in Scripta Theologica 40 (2008) 107-124;

- R. TREMBLAY, Attualità dell’esortazione apostlica “Sacramentum Caritatis” di Benedetto XVI, in Rivista di Teologia Morale 39 (2007) 547-554;

- M. SCHEUER, Eucaristie und Nächstenliebe: zur Bischofssynode über die Eucaristie (2005) una das nachsynodale Schreiben von Benedikt XVI, in Heiliger Dienst 61 (2007) nn 2-3, 79-84;

- S. TALTA VULL ANGLADA, Eucaristía y familia, in Teología y Catequesis (2008) n. 106, 29-55;

- A. BRAVO, Eucaristía, misterio que se ha de vivir, in Teología y Catequesis (2008) n. 106, 73-97.

This last group of contributors looks at the document’s affirmations regarding the transforming ability of the Eucharist and the spiritual cult or logiké latreia as a specific of Christian life. These are the themes that Sacramentum Caritatis confronts when it speaks of the Eucharistic form of the Christian existence and its anthropological, social and cosmological implications. The scholars’ contributions in these important fields is still quite timid, especially at the level of a unitary understanding of the believed, celebrated and lived mystery.

In conclusion, we can affirm that, after only 18 months from the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation, the receptio is not only ongoing but generally inspires hope. The Sacramentum Caritatis has already exerted a certain influence and is contributing to a greater re-centering of the life of the Christian community on the Eucharist and more generally on the liturgy. In particular, we can perceive a clearer awareness of the primacy of ritual action as the root of the Eucharistic form of the whole of Christian existence (logiké latreia).

All the same, understandably, the road to be traveled is still long pastorally, liturgically and theologically.

[Original text: Italian]

Then free interventions followed on the Report on the execution of the “Sacramentum caritatis”.

This General Congregation ended at 19:00 with the prayer Angelus Domini, 227 Fathers were present.