|By JOHN L.
John Paul signed the 14th encyclical of his pontificate on Thursday,
April 17, entitled Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The pope describes
his aim as rekindling Eucharistic “amazement” among Catholics, as well
as to “banish dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice.”
opinion among theologians and liturgical experts around Rome, it seems
de Eucharistia will trigger different reactions depending on the observer
– as any such text on a central Catholic concept, one that generates strong
passions, is perhaps destined to do.
see the encyclical as a moving spiritual meditation, as well as a helpful
reassertion of traditional doctrine and discipline. Others regard it as
a rather predictable treatment that in some ways owes more to the mid-16th
century Council of Trent than to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
Critics also say the concluding meditation on Mary reflects the pope’s
personal spirituality to a perhaps excessive degree, potentially creating
new ecumenical headaches.
is a nostalgic, almost autobiographical feel to some passages. John Paul
recalls celebrating Mass at various points in his life, from his first
pastoral assignment at Niegowic, Poland, to “chapels built along mountain
paths, on lakesides and seacoasts … on altars built in stadiums and city
de Eucharistia is more than a trip down memory lane. The pope restates
core doctrinal principles, such as the Mass as a representation of Christ’s
sacrifice on the cross and the real presence of Christ’s body and blood
in the bread and wine.
Fr. Keith Pecklers, a liturgical expert at Rome’s Gregorian University
as well as the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, underlined the pope’s insistence
that the Eucharist is both a “cosmic” event pointing to life in the next
world, and a summons to social responsibility on this earth.
pope places his emphasis on the Eucharist in the context of his overall
pastoral program for the third millennium set out in his letter Novo
is a clear disciplinary undercurrent. John Paul shares the anxiety, long
expressed by some conservative analysts, that a confluence of trends following
Vatican II – the priest shortage, a new emphasis on the local church, the
recovery of the “universal priesthood of the faithful” – have fostered
a congregational understanding of the Eucharist. From this point of view,
the local community structures the sacrament on the basis of its own needs,
and calls forth its own ministers. The congregational model is in tension
with the traditional Catholic understanding that the Eucharist was given
by Christ to the universal church, and the power to celebrate it is transmitted
to priests by bishops who stand in apostolic succession.
is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community
in which the mysteries are celebrated,” the pope writes.
present Eucharistic scene, John Paul says, is marked by lights and shadows.
the lights, the pope affirms the liturgical reforms following Vatican II,
which he says promoted “a more conscious, active and fruitful participation”
in the Mass.
Abandoning Eucharistic adoration;
A reductive understanding of the Eucharist, celebrated as a fraternal meal
rather than a sacrifice;
The necessity of the ministerial priesthood is sometimes obscured;
Ecumenical practices “contrary to the discipline by which the church expresses
can we not express profound grief at all this?” the pope asks. “The Eucharist
is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.”
Congregation for Divine Worship is preparing a disciplinary document on
these abuses, expected to appear in the fall. In that sense, Ecclesia
de Eucharistia may offer an early warning of a looming crackdown.
pope devotes special attention to ecumenical issues. He insists that Catholics
not receive communion from Christian denominations lacking holy orders,
which means virtually all branches of Protestantism. Catholics may not
substitute ecumenical services or the liturgies of other Christian churches
for the Sunday Mass. The pope rejects “concelebration” with Protestants.
de Eucharistia is not anti-ecumenical. The pope endorses the
ecumenical movement, and says the Eucharist should awaken hunger for full
Paul also notes that while concelebration is impossible, the same is not
true of administering the Eucharist to individuals under special circumstances.
Non-Catholics may receive the Eucharist “who greatly desire to receive
these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the
Catholic Church professes.”
Sacrament Fr. Anthony McSweeney, theologian and director of Rome’s Center
Eucharistia, told me that there are at least two other points where John
Paul showed ecumenical sensitivity.
the pope insists there is only one sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and
that the Mass does not “add” to it. This addresses a Reformation-era accusation
that the Catholic Church claims to “complete” Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.
the pope appeals to Eastern Christian sensibilities by emphasizing the
role of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist. Sweeney noted that of the eight
ancient Christian writers quoted by John Paul, six are Eastern.
closes with a chapter on Mary, suggesting that she can lead Catholics into
the Eucharistic mystery. The meditation leads John Paul to remarkable imagery:
when Mary bore Jesus in her womb, the pope writes, she “became in some
way a tabernacle, the first tabernacle in history.”
theologian said this material represents the encyclical’s most innovative
is an original, beautiful meditation on a theme very little developed in
the theological literature,” said Fr. Antonio Miralles, who teaches sacramental
theology at Rome’s Opus Dei-sponsored Santa Croce University, and serves
as a consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the
Congregation for Clergy.
three and four, on the apostolicity of the Eucharist and communion, will
be closely read by theologians, but they restate in an organic way points
already made by the magisterium,” Miralles said.
however, felt the Marian excursus may be problematic ecumenically. “I wonder
if non-Catholics will have difficulty grasping the link between Marian
devotion and Eucharistic practice,” he said.
identified other points of interest:
John Paul links the Eucharist as sacrifice and as banquet in one vision,
arguing that the Eucharist is intrinsically ordered to communion. This
is an attempt, McSweeney said, to heal an old split between the notions
of sacrifice and communion;
The pope treats the nature of Christ’s sacrifice as one of life-giving
love, rather than satisfaction for sin;
The pope makes a brief reference to the cosmic character of the Eucharist,
suggesting that all creation returns to God in the sacrament. This could
be a very “mind-opening” concept, McSweeney said.
who does not read the Union of Catholic Asian News wire service (http://www.ucanews.com/html/uca/main.asp)
is missing much about the global Catholic Church. One finds news about
Catholicism in Asia that doesn’t appear anywhere else.
item from April 11 illustrates why Asian Catholicism has become controversial
in Rome and elsewhere in recent years.
2 marked the Hindu holy day of “Nyepi” (silence) on Bali in Indonesia.
Hindus stayed home in silence, with no lights or fire, doing no work and
About 93 percent of
Bali’s 2.5 million people are Hindus, while some 25,000 of them are Catholics.
There are also Protestant Christians and Muslims. Relations have not always
been pacific; in February 2002, the homes of eight Christians were burned.
The Oct. 12 car bomb seemed to be linked to Islamic fundamentalism.
this climate, Catholic Bishop Benyamin Bria of Bali decided that out of
solidarity with the Hindu majority, Catholics too would observe the Nyepi
discipline this year. He ordered that all bells remain silent and no lights
be lit in churches in his Denpasar diocese.
order extended to sanctuary lamps, the red glass lamps whose flame burns
before the tabernacle in Catholic churches where the Blessed Sacrament
decision reflects the mainstream of Asian Catholicism since the Second
Vatican Council (1962-65), as worked out by the Federation of Asian Bishops’
Conferences. The FABC has stressed that to be Asian means valuing the millenia-old
religious traditions that are part of Asia’s cultural heritage.
others, however, extinguishing the sanctuary lamps will seem an ambiguous,
even troubling gesture.
one thing, canon 940 of the Code of Canon Law stipulates, “A special
lamp is to burn continuously before the tabernacle in which the blessed
Eucharist is reserved, to indicate and to honor the presence of Christ.”
The adverb “continuously” would seem, at least on the surface, to militate
against gestures such as Bria’s.
fundamentally, some Catholics may question the wisdom of extinguishing
(albeit temporarily) a symbol of a core Catholic belief, the real presence
of Christ in the Eucharist, for the sake of solidarity with a non-Christian
religion. Genuine inter-religious understanding, they would argue, cannot
result from playing down one’s own identity.
Catholics will recall what Cardinal John Henry Newman once wrote about
his awe at “the distant glimmering lamp” signaling the “Presence of our
Undying Life, hidden but ever working.”
Bali story thus offers a perfect illustration of a larger debate in the
Catholic Church over religious diversity – how to handle it in practice,
and what sense to make of theologically.
fighting recedes in Iraq, attention is turning to the prospects for a comprehensive
peace in the Middle East. In this context, the relationship between the
Vatican and Israel, always important, is destined to become steadily more
crucial. This makes the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican a key figure,
and as it happens there is a changing of the guard.
got a preview of the new ambassador, Oded Ben-Hur, on April 11 at a conference
on violence in the Middle East at the American University of Rome. If his
presentation is any indication, Ben-Hur will be a formidable interlocutor.
argued that the Palestinian vision of peace is not what Westerners conventionally
mean, i.e., open borders, commercial exchanges and diplomatic relations.
Yasser Arafat’s vision, he said, is “living side by side with a diminished
Israel, with Jerusalem divided in two, an Israel undressed of its unconventional
capabilities, an Israel brought low. This is not an Israel I’d like to
live in,” Ben-Hur said, “and it would create a dangerous Middle East.”
Hur listed five lessons he said the Second Intifadah has taught Israel:
If the Israeli approach was based on the idea that peace will bring security,
now it’s that security will bring peace;
The Israelis now know Arafat can’t be trusted;
If the desire was for living side by side with Palestinians, now the ambition
is more modest, symbolized by the building of a wall to separate Palestinian
territories from Israel – “we are here and they are there,” Ben-Hur said,
“so at least they can’t blow themselves up in our markets;”
The Israelis now realize there must be new Palestinian leaders who want
Before the Israelis wanted a full and permanent agreement, now they favor
“a phased, interim, step-by-step, long agreement.”
ambassador’s distaste for Arafat was evident. One example came in a joke,
which Ben-Hur said illustrates Arafat’s attitude towards peace negotiations:
“First we walk up to the bridge, then we double-cross it.”
did not say anything about the Vatican. But from these remarks one can
discern that Ben-Hur will be a challenge to anyone who wishes to persuade
Israel to pursue a different policy.
* * *
footnote to an item last week about the visit to Rome of John Bolton, U.S.
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, for
meetings with Vatican officials. The trip was organized by the American
embassy to the Holy See.
noted that Bolton met Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar for Rome
and president of the Italian bishops conference, and not Cardinal Angelo
Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state. Since Ruini and Sodano are rival
poles of power on the Italian ecclesial scene, local eyebrows arched over
Bolton’s schedule. As I wrote last week, some Italians felt Ruini had showed
poor manners in taking the meeting, since it could seem like an upstaging
of Sodano. I also observed that Ruini, while opposed to the Iraq war, has
also been critical of the peace movement for its anti-American tendencies.
I did not say, but should have, is that the U.S. embassy to the Holy See
never requested a meeting with Sodano. From the embassy’s point of view,
Bolton is an under-secretary, and hence the appropriate Vatican interlocutor
was Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Sodano’s deputy, with whom Bolton met
for an hour.
minor contretemps, in other words, offers an object lesson in Italian church
politics, not U.S. diplomacy.
* * *
Adenauer, the first post-war chancellor of Germany, once said that the
politicians of his generation could not allow the country to be torn asunder
by partisan divisions, because the conservatives and socialists alike who
came to prominence after the war had suffered together in the concentration
camps. They experienced an “ecumenism of the gulag.”
evening of Tuesday, April 15, a remarkable liturgy at Rome’s basilica of
Santa Maria Maggiore demonstrated anew this power of common suffering to
Sant’Egidio Community has for several years marked the Tuesday of Holy
Week as a memorial for Christian martyrs of the 20th century,
and now the 21st. This year, the remembrance was led by an impressive
ecumenical line-up of clergy. Cardinal Francis Stafford, an American who
heads the Pontifical Council for Laity, was the presider. He was joined
by the Rt. Revd. Richard Garrard, head of Rome’s Anglican Center; Pastor
Martin Kruse, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany in Rome; Fr.
Matteo Psomas, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church in Rome; and Rev. Pieter
Bouman, minister of the English Methodist Church in Rome. Other clergy
from various Rome-area churches also took part.
liturgy’s power was its simplicity. Fr. Marco Gnavi, a familiar figure
from Sant’Egidio events who serves as secretary of the ecumenical commission
of the Rome archdiocese, read names and brief descriptions of scores of
martyrs from Europe, Africa, America and Asia. They came from every branch
of the Christian family. Virtually all had died since 2000. After each
name, the large crowd sang
kyrie, eleison. The repetition brought
home what a “cloud of witnesses” the recent past has produced.
journalist Antonio Socci recently published a book entitled I Nuovi
Perseguitati, or “The New Persecuted,” in which he argued that over
2,000 years some 70 million Christians have been martyred, with 45.5 million,
fully 65 percent, in the last century).
told me afterwards that he hopes the U.S. bishops will organize a similar
liturgy at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with
one of their meetings. Stafford was struck by the ecumenical heart of the
liturgy, reflecting the common experience of the cross. “There was nothing
contrived about it,” he said.
there was no overt political message, the war in Iraq nevertheless hung
in the background. In his public remarks, Stafford lauded the martyrs’
“disarmed force of faith,” suggesting that their witness “may seem weak,
but it warms hearts and signals victory over the prince of this world.”
a footnote, the U.S. martyr on Gnavi’s list was Fr. Michael Mac, killed
in December 2001 at a Servants of the Paraclete monastery in Jemez Springs,
New Mexico, during an apparent robbery.
230 Catholics involved in youth ministry from dioceses and Catholic movements
around the world gathered in Rome April 10-13 to assess last summer’s World
Youth Day in Toronto, and to plan for the next mega-gathering in Cologne,
Germany, in 2005.
say there was agreement that the basic pattern of World Youth Day – three
days of catechesis by bishops in different languages, a Saturday evening
vigil with the pope followed by a camp-out, then the Sunday morning Mass
– works well. There is no need, participants agreed, to alter the formula.
of Toronto focused largely on inevitable logistical problems, primarily
transportation and food. The only serious complaint had to do with visas.
In some cases, visa requests from developing nations, especially in Africa,
were held up or denied out of concern that some “pilgrims” would seek to
stay behind. (Not an unfounded fear; several dozen people who came on World
Youth Day visas still remain in Canada).
and delegates from developing nations nevertheless experienced these denials
as an insult, and some did not realize it was the Canadian government rather
than local church organizers making the decisions. Since the same problem
will undoubtedly arise in Germany, organizers must think about how to avoid
issue was posed by the official theme for the Cologne World Youth Day.
In English, it is “We have come to worship him,” a reference to the Three
Magi from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth. The cathedral in Cologne houses
what tradition regards as relics of the Magi, so it’s a logical choice.
(By the way, one of Andy Greeley’s mysteries, The Bishop and the Three
Kings, is set in the Cologne cathedral, and it offers a wonderful synthesis
of its charms).
most other languages, however, the verb used in the World Youth Day theme
is “adore” rather than “worship,” so discussion ensued as to which term
works better in English. Some preferred the familiar ring of “adore” (as
in, “O come let us adore him”), while others said “worship” is a richer
concept that includes prayer, devotion, liturgy, even acts of charity.
it was not much voiced out loud, some delegates had another concern about
the theme. Given that criticism of World Youth Day, especially from the
Protestant world that is so prominent in Germany, has long focused on its
alleged “idolatry” of the pope, one wonders if the motto “we have come
to worship him” in connection with a papal visit strikes the correct tone.
Of course, anyone who understands the mind of John Paul II knows that he
has no intention of substituting himself for Jesus Christ. Nevertheless,
at the level of symbolism, some felt this choice of words may invite confusion.
a press conference on Saturday, April 13, German Cardinals Joachim Meisner
and Karl Lehmann, along with Stafford as head of the Pontifical Council
for the Laity, took questions.
German reporter asked Stafford why so many young people flock to see the
pope. The reporter put the question in the context of Toronto, which he
had expected to be a flop because of the sex abuse scandals.
young people came with clerics as pilgrims,” Stafford said. “They know
their bishops and their priests, they know the type of people they are,
and they have immense trust in them.
“The number of clergy
involved [in scandals] is very, very small,” Stafford said. “It’s difficult
to overcome the profound trust that young people have in their pastors
tried to draw Lehmann out on whether World Youth Day offers the German
church a chance to clean up its image in Rome, since the relationship has
been strained in recent years. He did not bite, restricting himself to
insisting that German youth are “very positive” about the event, and that
“there is no doubt the World Youth Day will unfold very positively.”
was asked how many participants he expected, and joked that “I don’t have
a prophetic light for numbers.” He went on to say, however, that registered
delegates for the week-long event could be 400,00, with the crowd for the
final Mass swelling to 800,000 or more. Meisner also said some 600 bishops
are expected to participate.
though World Youth Day is an explicitly Catholic event, Meisner said that
“all young people of good will are invited” – an important point in Germany,
where ecumenical relations are at a premium.
* * *
had breakfast April 9 with Basilian Fr. Tom Rosica, who provided the brains
behind World Youth Day in Toronto. He was in town for the April 10-13 meeting,
as well as a Palm Sunday festival of youth in St. Peter’s Square. Canadian
youth handed over the World Youth Day cross to their German counter-parts.
next challenge is perhaps an even more formidable one. He is to become,
as a guy I know in the Vatican put it, “the Mother Angelica of Canada.”
He has been named the head of a new national TV network in Canada called
Salt and Light Television.
realizes North America is littered with failed attempts to found Catholic
media empires. The U.S. bishops tried to launch their own cable TV channel,
and more recently a much-ballyhooed “Catholic Radio Network” flopped. The
lone success story is EWTN, the network founded by the feisty Franciscan
nun Mother Angelica.
has traveled to EWTN’s Birmingham, Alabama, headquarters, and says they
were gracious. Mother Angelica herself, before her recent illness, gave
him precious advice about dealing with bishops: “Don’t ask permission.
Just do it, and if you need to, you can ask forgiveness later.”
wants his network, however, to be less identified with a particular theological
position than EWTN, seen in the States as a bastion of the Catholic right.
One show on the drawing board is called “Cooking with the Saints,” and
will feature a recipe associated with a given saint, plus a lesson about
his or her life.
anybody can pull this off, it will be Rosica, whose linguistic capacity
and never-ending network of contacts is matched only by his boundless energy.
I hope that Salt and Light TV will be available on satellite systems so
we can pick it up in Rome. I have the sense it will be worth watching.
* * *
will recall that on Jan. 24 I wrote about Fr. Diego Lorenzi, the personal
secretary of Pope John Paul I, who served at a mission in the Philippines
after the untimely death of the pope. I appealed for support of Lorenzi’s
“Payatas Project,” intended to inoculate people against tuberculosis who
live in and around a giant Manila garbage dump, where fires burn constantly
and the air is full of toxins.
pleased to report that as of April 10, readers of “The Word from Rome”
have contributed $4,260. Fr. Lorenzi sends his thanks.
readers still considering a donation, here again is the information: Don
Orione Fathers, 111 Orient Avenue, East Boston, Massachusetts, 02128 (USA).
Mark checks for “Payatas project, Manila.” The Orione Fathers are a tax-exempt
charitable organization under American law.
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
© The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115 E.
Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111
All rights reserved.