The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, headed by Francis Cardinal Arinze presented "Redemptionis Sacramentum, On Certain Matters To Be Observed Or To Be Avoided Regarding The Most Holy Eucharist," at a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office.
Present alongside Arinze was Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, secretary of the congregation, and Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had a hand in the preparation of the document. “Redemptionis Sacramentum” was published simultaneously in Latin, English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
The document is divided into 10 parts; 8 chapters plus a preamble and a conclusion. Its objective is to provide instruction to bishops, priests, and all the faithful on the correct norms to be adhered to, and abuses to be avoided, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
In Chapter I, "The Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy," the document speaks of the role and responsibilityof the Apostolic See, the diocesan bishop, the episcopal conference, priests and deacons in the regulation of the liturgy.
Regarding episcopal conferences, the document states that "all liturgical norms that a conference of bishops will have established for its territory in accordance with the law are to be submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the 'recognitio', without which they lack any binding force."
Chapter II is entitled "The Participation of the Lay Christian Faithful in the Eucharistic Celebration" and notes that “the community that gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist absolutely requires an ordained Priest, who presides over it so that it may truly be a eucharistic convocation.
On the question of altar servers, it states that "it is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension”.
Chapter III, "The Proper Celebration of the Mass," highlights "The Matter of the Most Holy Eucharist" and emphasizes that “the bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made”. Regarding the wine, it states that it “must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances." In the same chapter, the instruction says that the proclamation of the Eucharistic Prayer, is proper to the Priest, who must not vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce.
The instruction states that a homily is given by a priest, occasionally by a concelebrating priest or deacon "but never by a lay person", and also “the priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration."
This Chapter concludes that “it is strictly to be considered an abuse to introduce into the celebration of Holy Mass elements that are contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books and taken from the rites of other religions."
Chapter IV, "Holy Communion," includes Dispositions for the Reception of Holy Communion. It states that “anyone who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession, except for grave reason when the possibility of confession is lacking; in this case he will remember that he is bound by the obligation of making an act of perfect contrition, which includes the intention to confess as soon as possible."
Concerning the reception of communion, the document notes the right of all the faithful to receive it in the mouth or by hand. In this latter case, it notes that “special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand." Also, regarding intinction, "the communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand."
Chapter V, "Certain Others Matters Concerning the Eucharist," states that "it is never lawful for a Priest to celebrate in a temple or sacred place of any non-Christian religion."
Regarding the sacred vessels, “any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.”
On priestly vestments: "the vestment proper to the priest celebrant at mass ... is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole. Likewise the Priest, in putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole."
Chapter VI is entitled "The Reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Worship Outside Mass." It states that "the Most Holy Sacrament is to be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is noble, prominent, readily visible, and adorned in a dignified manner.”
The document strongly encourages "both public and private devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist even outside Mass should be vigorously promoted, for by means of it the faithful give adoration to Christ, truly and really present."
Chapter VII, "Extraordinary functions of the Lay Faithful” reiterates that "only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy.”
Concerning preaching, the Instruction states that "the homily on account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the Priest or Deacon during Mass."
The document states that “it is unthinkable on the Lord's Day to substitute for Holy Mass either ecumenical celebrations of the word or services of common prayer with Christians from the ... Ecclesial Communities or even participation in these communities' liturgical services."
Chapter VIII, entitled "Remedies," states that "among the various abuses there are some which are objectively graviora delicta (grave act) or otherwise constitute grave matters, as well as others which are nonetheless to be carefully avoided and corrected."
The chapter concludes with a paragraph on the right of the Catholic faithful to report any liturgical abuse: "Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ's faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity."
The Conclusion exhorts “all Christ’s faithful to participate in the Most Holy Eucharist as fully, consciously and actively as they can, honouring it lovingly by their devotion and the manner of their life,” and calls ordained ministers to examine their conscience “even with severity”, on “whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred Liturgy at Christ’s command. For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the Sacred Liturgy.”