On Saturday, the final message of the General Synod of Bishops, entitled, ‘The Eucharist: Living Bread for the Peace of the World’, was made public in five languages by the Vatican.
It stresses, above all, a call to Eucharistic centrality in the life of all the faithful, and a particular call to priests and laity alike, to be “workers in the vineyard.”
While many had speculated about dissent, particularly in the realm of celibacy and intercommunion, the bishops held closely to Church teaching and practice, stressing the importance of unity with the Magisterium and Chair of Peter--the Pope.
In the message, the Bishops say that they were, "Called to Rome by Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, and confirmed by His Holiness Benedict XVI,” to “come from the five continents of the world to pray and reflect together on the Eucharist, 'Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.'“
“The goal of the Synod” they point out, “was to offer proposals to the Holy Father that might help him to update and deepen the Eucharistic life of the Church. We have been able to experience what the Holy Eucharist has been from the very beginning: one faith and one Church, nourished by one bread of life, in visible communion with the successor of Peter.”
The Bishops implored the faithful, "Christian brothers and sisters of every confession,” to “pray more fervently that the day of reconciliation, and the full visible unity of the Church, might come in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in conformity with Jesus' prayer on the eve of His death: 'That all may be one'."
They also recalled the testimonies, given by many bishops throughout the course of the Synod, on the various situations of relativism, secularism and even violent opposition in which the faithful live around the world.
In this light, the group vowed to continue to fight against abuses of human dignity and the scourge of relativism which seeks to undermine the Christian faith.
Speaking specifically on the Eucharistic liturgy in the Mass, the Bishops declared that they “firmly believe and we teach in the constant tradition of the Church that the words of Jesus pronounced by the priest at the Mass, in the power of the Holy Spirit, effect what they signify. They bring about the real presence of the Risen Christ."
"Forty years after Vatican Council II”, they said they “wanted to examine to what extent the mysteries of the faith are adequately expressed and celebrated in our liturgical assemblies.”
The Synod reaffirmed “that Vatican Council II provided the necessary basis for an authentic liturgical renewal. It is necessary now to cultivate the positive fruits of this reform, and to correct abuses that have crept into liturgical practice.”
“We are convinced”, they said, “that respect for the sacred character of the liturgy is transmitted by genuine fidelity to liturgical norms of legitimate authority. No one should consider himself master of the Church's liturgy."
Here, the bishops noted many positive strides which have been made toward greater recognition and respect for the Eucharist in the Church.
These include; a “renewed consciousness of the importance of the Sunday Mass; the increase in the number of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life in various places of the world; the powerful experiences of World Youth Days, culminating at Cologne in Germany; the development of numerous initiatives for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament almost everywhere in the world; the renewal of the catechesis on Baptism and the Eucharist in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the growth of movements and communities forming missionaries for the new evangelization."
At the same time however, they lamented a loss of the sense of sin and Sacrament of Penance among many of the faithful, as well as dropping Mass attendance and priest shortages in many regions.
Issuing a special call to priests and seminarians, the bishops challenged them to be, “with us and following the example of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, 'humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord,' following a consistent priestly life."
"To all young seminarians,” the bishops said that they wished “to express our hope that their formation will be permeated by an authentic Eucharistic spirituality.”
Throughout the course of the Synod, the value of celibacy has been strongly reaffirmed as a valuable and vital practice, despite criticism from many referring to the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S.
The Bishop also extended their challenge of Eucharistic centrality to all married couples and lay people, as well as deacons and consecrated religious in particular.
The 257 prelates closed their message likening their own experience to that of the disciples whom Jesus appeared to on the road to Emmaus in the Gospels.
"At the end of this Synod”, they wrote, “we experience that peace full of hope which the disciples of Emmaus, with burning hearts, received from the Risen Lord. They arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem, to share their joy with their brothers and sisters in the faith. We hope that you will go joyfully to meet Him in the Holy Eucharist, and that you will experience the truth of His words: 'And I am with you until the end of the world'."