Bishops Synod on the Eucharist
Posted Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005 at 10:30 a.m. CDT

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Coverage of Bishops Synod on the Eucharist

Report #5:
Environment, social justice emerge as eucharistic themes


John L. Allen Jr.


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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
  • Report #17: Final draft rebuffs Latin Mass; priest shortage, divorce squarely on church’s pastoral agenda Posted Oct. 20, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #16: Gregory: Little change expected but synod had honest talk of pastoral realities Posted Oct. 19, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #15: Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline Posted Oct. 18, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #14: Women’s voices heard through interventions of 12 synod auditors Posted Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m.
  • Report #13: Statement on married priests likely in final list of proposals Posted Oct. 17, 12:00 p.m.
  • Report #12: Outreach to Latin Mass Catholics proposed for final message Posted Oct. 15, 9:32 a.m.
  • Report #11: Problems acknowledged, synod bishops seek middle ground solutions. Posted Oct. 13, 1:15 p.m.
  • 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. Posted Oct. 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 the argument.

    “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. 4.

    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 its celebration.”

    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 the point.

    “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 said.

    “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 Mass.

    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 profanation.”

    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 NCR’s Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is

    October 6, 2005, National Catholic Reporter

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