.- As the 11th General Synod of bishops continued their fourth day of meetings yesterday in Rome, the idea of the Eucharist, as an antidote to what John Paul II coined as the "culture of death", figured prominently in the remarks of many prelates.
Archbishop Juan Francisco Sarasti Jaramillo C.I.M., of Cali Colombia, said in his address that, "The Eucharist is the response to the negative signs of modern culture. In the first instance, in the face of a culture or anti-culture of death that traffics in arms, builds systems of wide-scale destruction, legalizes abortion and authorizes research on human embryos, Jesus defines and gives Himself to us as 'Bread of Life.'"
"In the second instance," the Archbishop continued, "our culture is marked by hatred and terrorism. ... The Eucharist offers the permanent possibility of reconciliation with God and our brethren, an invitation to find reconciliation among ourselves before worshipping the Lord."
He added that, "Another modern trait is that of scientific positivism or relativism, yet the Eucharist reaffirms the reality of the 'mystery' and the value of belief and love as a way to knowledge; with Eucharistic faith, upheld by ecclesial tradition and based on the words of the Lord, we have access to real, though imperfect, certainties. Finally, in the face of the solitude and desperation that undermine mankind today, the Eucharist offers us ... profound companionship and a promise of eternal life that fills us with definitive hope."
Likewise, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, who is President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said that "Increasing secularization, as well as the spread of religious indifference and of a 'strange forgetfulness of God' - as the Holy Father Benedict XVI calls it - provoke among many baptized of our time a worrying deterioration, if not even loss, of their own Christian identity.
He stressed that, it is in the Eucharistic celebration where lay Catholics realize the fullness of their Christian roles.
"It is in the Eucharist", he said, "that lay Christians fully realize their participation in the triple mission entrusted to them by Christ: priestly, prophetic and royal. ... As the Holy Father recalled in Cologne, the real revolution that changes the world starts with the Eucharist. ... In this way the Eucharist becomes not only the heartbeat of the Church, but also of the world. For this reason true lay spirituality can only be Eucharistic spirituality."
Bishop Pierre Tran Dinh Tu, of Phu Cuong, in Vietnam added that Eucharistic formation and education has had profound effects on Catholics in his country.
For them, he said, "Eucharistic celebration has special importance. About 80% attend Mass on Sundays, and 15% during week days. On important feasts, such as Christmas and Easter, the number may reach 95%.
He credited much of this to high-caliber teaching and catechesis programs now being used in the country, adding that, "awareness among the lay faithful was raised and they were invited to study the documents of the Magisterium of the Church on the Eucharist. For the celebrations, the Episcopal conference organized a Eucharistic congress at the national Marian center of Lavang, and there were 500,000 participants."
In short, "Eucharistic worship in Vietnam", he said, "has brought positive effects: religious life has increased, community activities are more animated, fraternal communion is more evident and reciprocal help among families has become more natural and widespread. To sum up, there is reason to hope that Eucharistic devotion will bring many benefits to our country."