.- As bishops today, met for the Forth General Congregation of the 11th Synod of Bishops, the issue of the sacredness of the Eucharist and how the faithful can better recognize it, took center stage for a time. Among the proposals were universal reception in the mouth and a greater focus on confession to help prepare faithful to receive.
Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga M.I.C., from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, who was persecuted for his faith during the years of soviet communism, recalled the days when the Eucharist was forced to be celebrated in secret by the faithful. He called to mind its sacredness and discussed ways to highlight this fact.
He said that, "Among the liturgical innovations produced in the Western world, two in particular tend to cloud the visible aspect of the Eucharist, especially as regards its centrality and sacredness: the removal of the tabernacle from the center and the distribution of communion in the hand."
"Communion in the hand", he said, "is spreading and even prevailing as being easier, as a kind of fashion. ... Therefore, I humbly propose the following practical propositions: that the Holy See issue a universal regulation establishing the official way of receiving communion as being in the mouth and kneeling; with communion in the hand to be reserved for the clergy alone."
He likewise asked that "bishops in places where communion in the hand has been introduced work with pastoral prudence to bring the faithful slowly back to the official rite of communion, valid for all local Churches."
In this same vien, Bishop Lorenzo Voltolini Esti, Auxilary of Portoviejo, Ecuador, suggested that, "Refraining from the celebration of Mass on Friday in Lent would help the faithful to feel greater hunger for the Eucharistic food, and it would give priests the chance to put themselves at the disposal of the faithful for the Sacrament of Penance, thus establishing a relationship of equal dignity and necessity between the two Sacraments."
"I propose", he continued, that "it be suggested to dioceses or National Episcopal Conferences, or at least allowed to those that request it, that they establish a day of Eucharistic fasting, preferably during Lent and perhaps on Fridays."
"This should not be experienced as a day of Eucharistic absence", he clarified, "but as a period of preparation for and expectation of the Eucharist. It should not be considered as an interruption of the practice of celebrating the Eucharist each day, but as a way to give worth to the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, equally celebrated in Penance and in the Eucharist in the totality and complementarity of the two Sacraments."
Bishop Rimantas Norvila of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania agreed. "Without the will or the possibility of sacramental reconciliation," he said, "it becomes impossible for Catholics to experience the most profound union with Jesus Christ and the Church, favored by the Eucharist. Thus Christians reach a point where they cannot appreciate the value of the Eucharist as a source of grace and, little by little, they lose their bonds with the parish community and their closeness to the whole Church."
"At the same time," he pointed out, "without the practice of reconciliation, subjectivism tends to increase, and it becomes more difficult to evaluate personal behavior and religiosity."
Broadening reception guidelines
Others however, sought to focus the Eucharistic conversation in a different direction.
Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand announced a formal request to offer communion to divorced Catholics who have not been reconciled with the Church, and also to non-Catholic spouses--something the Church's teaching magisterium has long forbid.
"Our Church", he said, "would be enriched if we were able to invite dedicated Catholics, currently excluded from the Eucharist, to return to the Lord's table. There are those whose first marriages ended in sadness; they have never abandoned the Church, but are currently excluded from the Eucharist."
The Archbishop also mentioned Catholics who are married to "people baptized in other Christian faiths."
"We acknowledge them to be baptized in Christ in the sacrament of marriage," he said, "but not in the reception of the Eucharist. This Synod must be pastoral in approach; we must look for ways to include those who are hungering for the Bread of Life. The scandal of those hungering for Eucharistic food needs to be addressed, just as the scandal of physical hunger needs to be addressed."