.- 243 bishops participated in Thursday afternoon's seventh meeting of the 11th General Synod of Bishops taking place in Rome this week. The major themes of the discussions revolved around cultural effects and needs for the Eucharistic mystery in a secular and suffering society. Some bishops, particularly from poor and oppressed regions gave emotional addresses about the profound struggles of their flocks and the strength they've received from the Eucharist.
Speaking on the need to evangelize a postmodern, secular culture with is seemingly hostile to the Eucharist and the liturgy, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels in Belgium said that despite appearances, the culture is one full of paradoxes.
"It is difficult", he said, "for modern man to perceive the invisible, yet there exists real interest in what lies beyond the horizon, beyond the realm of the senses, beyond the rational, beyond efficiency and productivity. Modern man is, above all, a man of action, yet the same man also conceals within a great thirst for gratitude, for giving; he does not like rites because of their repetitiveness and monotony, yet he is always inventing his own rites."
"Christian eschatology", he continued, "appears to be forgotten, even deceptive, yet never has there been so much thirst for a better world, nor so much need for hope. ... Modern man wants to move, and our liturgies have frequently become very active, even activist. But we forget that many of our contemporaries have a real need for silence. Not always have we well understood the meaning of 'actuosa participatio,' which also implies silence in the face of the mystery. All these elements of our culture carry within themselves the seeds for an evangelization of that culture."
Some bishops, particularly those in third world or formerly communist areas, talked about the experience of profound faith amidst persecution and suffering in their own countries.
"In Romania," recalled Archbishop Lucian Muresan of Fagaras and Alba Iulia of the Romanians, "the communists tried to give man material bread alone, and sought to expel 'the bread of God' from society and from the human heart. ... Priests were imprisoned simply for being Catholic, so they could not celebrate or speak about God."
"Even lay people", he said, "who participated in clandestine Masses suffered the same fate. In the famous period of 're-education' and 'brainwashing' in the Romanian prisons, to compromise priests, to ridicule the Eucharist and to destroy human dignity, the persecutors made them celebrate with excrement, but they never succeeded in destroying their faith."
"These modern martyrs of the 20th Century" the archbishop continued, "offered all their suffering to the Lord for dignity and human freedom. ... There is no lack of hope, and I think first of all of the deep religious sense of our people, the deep devotion with which they approach liturgical celebrations and the Eucharist."
Similarly, Bishop Nestor Ngoy Katahwa of Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo said that in his home region, "the Catholic faithful must be 'initiated to bring their sufferings to the altar,' sufferings which are those of all the people and which have existed for decades."
"The frustration", he said, "that arises from injustice and social inequalities" which exist in that country, "mark the way of the cross of the people of the Congo."
"Being the victims and, at the same time, 'authors of their own misery,' the people must be illuminated 'by the mystery of the sacrificed Body and spilt Blood' to find grace of conversion, purification of sin, sincerity of reconciliation with God and with others, and commitment to fight evil under all forms and in all areas of public and private life. May all the people of the Congo, together with the pastors of the Church, find in the Eucharist the necessary consolation and strength, the source of their hopes for improving the country as quickly as possible."
Noting that "Over 2,500 parishes around the world now have perpetual Eucharistic adoration", including some 1,100 in the U.S. 500 in the Philippines, and many other smaller but still significant numbers around the world Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., of Yangon, Myanmar implored Pope Benedict, saying, "if perpetual adoration chapels were to be established in all the dioceses in the world and in all possible parishes, what a magnificent result that would be for the Eucharistic Year."
"This is true," he said: "until the Church cries out that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is worthy of perpetual adoration for all He has done for our salvation, she will continue to be defeated by her enemies. I believe that the best, the surest and the most effective way of establishing everlasting peace on the face of the earth is through the great power of perpetual adoration of the blessed Sacrament."