Environment, social justice emerge as eucharistic themes
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
While contentious issues such as celibacy and communion for
divorced and remarried Catholics have dominated headlines in the early days of
the Synod of Bishops, quietly a number of other surprising themes are emerging,
including the connection between the Eucharist and ecology.
Two bishops from the developing world have insisted that if the
Eucharist is the summit of all creation, then it necessarily implies concern
for the integrity of the environment.
Both men have linked this concern with real-world problems of
environmental degradation experienced in their countries.
Climactic change presents a serious threat to world peace. It is
an authentic sign of the times that demands of us an
ecological conversion, said Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto
Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, on Oct. 4.
The church has a huge responsibility in this spiritual
field, said Barreto Jimeno, a Jesuit.
As fruit of the earth, the bread and the wine
represent the creation which is entrusted to us by our Creator, Barreto
Jimeno said. For that reason the Eucharist has a direct relationship with
the life and hope of humanity and must be a constant concern for the church and
a sign of Eucharistic authenticity.
[In] the Archdiocese of Huancayo, the air, the ground and the
basin of the river Mantaro are seriously affected by contamination, he
said. The Eucharist commits us to working so that the bread and wine be
fruit of a fertile, pure and uncontaminated land.
Bishop Gabriel Peñate Rodríguez, Apostolic Vicar of Izabal
in Guatemala, made much the same argument in his Oct. 5 intervention.
Guatemala is a country menaced by mineral exploitation,
Peñate Rodríguez said.
|Read more NCR coverage of the synod on the Eucharist|
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divorce squarely on churchs pastoral agenda
Posted Oct. 20, 11:00 a.m.
Gregory: Little change expected but synod had honest talk of pastoral realities
Posted Oct. 19, 11:00 a.m.
Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline
Posted Oct. 18, 11:00 a.m.
Womens voices heard through interventions of 12 synod auditors
Posted Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m.
Statement on married priests likely in final list of proposals
Posted Oct. 17, 12:00
Outreach to Latin Mass Catholics proposed for final message
Posted Oct. 15, 9:32
Report #11: Problems acknowledged, synod bishops seek middle ground solutions. Posted Oct. 13, 1:15
Report #10: Despite frank talk, few breakthroughs expected from synod. Posted Oct. 12, 11:00 a.m.
Report #9: Key synod themes seem clear, but consensus may be elusive. Posted Oct. 11, 11:00 a.m.
Report #8: Inculturation of liturgy sparks debate at this and past synods of bishops. Posted Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m.
Report #7: Bishops of Global South link Eucharist and
justice, local cultures. Posted Oct. 8., 9:52 a.m.
Report #6: Discussion of celibacy and marriage clergy continue to hold center stage. Posted Oct.
7, 10:21 a.m.
Report #5: Environment, social justice emerge as eucharistic themes. Posted Oct. 6, 10:30 a.m.
Report #4: Divorced, remarried Catholics topics of frank synod discussions.
5, 3:00 p.m
Report #3: Priest shortage continues to roil synod of bishops. Posted Oct. 4, 2:01 p.m.
Report #2: Movements appeal for changes to make Eucharist more accessible. Posted Oct. 4, 2:00 p.m.
Report #1: Priest shortage takes center stage on synod's first day. Posted Oct. 3, 3:04 p.m.|
|Read The Word From Rome columns|
The final set of propositions; The case of viri probati; Some worry the synod lacked theological heft. Posted Oct. 21, 2:07 p.m.
Latin Mass a non-issue; Interview with Bishop Skylstad; Scola's 17 questions to
guide the synod. Posted Oct.
14, 10:46 a.m.
The synod so far; How to report on a synod; A view from Moscow; Document on homosexuals in seminaries will not create an absolute ban; Catholic left and right square off. Posted Oct. 7, 11:55 a.m.
Preview of the synod on the Eucharist. Posted Sept. 30, 8:05 a.m.|
Many licenses have been granted in this field to companies from
developed countries who do not guarantee the care of the environment, and show
no respect for the rights of the indigenous communities; and that are not fair
in the distribution of profits, from which they leave hardly one per cent in
form of royalties.
Using much the same language as his fellow Latin American Barreto
Jimeno, Peñate Rodríguez issued a plea: We also hope that
the bread that is converted in the body of the Lord and the wine which is
converted into his blood may be fruit of a fertile, pure and uncontaminated
land, he said.
Another theme struck by bishops from the global South has been the
importance of small Christian communities in offering catechesis and forming
authentic Eucharistic devotion.
José Mario Ruiz Navas, Archbishop of Portoviejo in Ecuador, made
Discipleship, as knowledge and recognition, goes together with an
interpersonal relationship, he said. This normally takes place in
small communities and movements; it is difficult that it takes place in the
crowd, and even less in a multitude.
Bishop Peter Kang U-Il of Cheju, Korea, made much the same point on Oct.
Up to now there has been very little deep personal contact between
Catholics within the parish structure, he said. But in recent years
Asian believers have been building up a sense of communion with their brothers
and sisters in faith through the small Christian communities.
People who experience this sense of communion with their neighbors
are better prepared to deepen their sense of communion within the context of
Eucharist, U-Il said. From this point of view the vitalization of
small Christian communities is an excellent means of helping believers to
deeply understand the value of the Eucharist and to participate more fully in
One other point that surfaced in Oct. 5 discussions was the intrinsic
link between the Eucharist and social justice. Patriarch Grégoire III
Laham of the Greek- Melkhite rite quoted Eastern fathers of the church to make
St. John Chrysostom, in his 50th Homily on St. Matthew, says,
The mystery of the Eucharist is the mystery of the brother, and judgment
will be on the way we link together the mystery of Christ present in the Holy
Eucharist and the sacrament present in the brothers, Laham
In the fourth century, Narsaï the Syrian also tells us,
Holiness without your brother man is not holiness, for you cannot enter
the Kingdom alone.
An area of clash came in discussion of the Eucharist as sacrifice, and
the need to balance between the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the
In the open session Wednesday night, Cardinal George Pell of Australia
voiced concern that talk about various presences of Christ, such as
in the community, in scripture, and in the individual believer can blur the
centrality of the real presence in the Eucharist.
We are not pantheists, he warned the synod.
One bishop from Eastern Europe warned that a lack of reverence in
treating the Eucharist reflected maybe even veiled forms of
At the same time, Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes, France, warned that
an exclusive focus on the real presence of Christ in the reserved host could
lead precisely to a neglect of the other real presences, and an
overly individualistic sense of the sacrament.
For the first time so far, two addresses in the synod drew applause
Thursday morning: Archbishop Lucian Muresan from Romania, who offered a moving
testimony on the suffering of the churches behind the Iron Curtain, and
Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, who ended with a strong plea for unity among
the various branches of the Christian family, including the capacity to
celebrate the Eucharist around a common table.
Pope Benedict XVI was present Thursday morning, and was applauded as he
exited by a group of American seminarians from the North American College.
In a touch reminiscent of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter carrying
his own luggage, Benedict appeared the morning of Oct. 6 carrying his own tote
bag with the documents from the synod, an everyman touch
uncharacteristic of previous popes.
In other synod business, results of voting for the moderators and
relators of the 12 small working groups were released. Among American
participants, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia was selected as the
moderator of English Group A, while Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh is the
relator of English Group B.
John L. Allen Jr. is NCRs Rome correspondent. His e-mail
address is email@example.com.
October 6, 2005, National Catholic Reporter