Pope calls priests to improve homilies, form laity in meaning of liturgy

.- In a letter released by the Vatican today, John Paul II thanked Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and discipline of the Sacraments for his work to encourage growth of the Christian community strengthened by the Eucharist. The letter, signed this morning in Rome's Gemelli hospital, where the Pope has been since last week, was also addressed to participants in the congregation’s plenary session, which concludes tomorrow in the Vatican.

The Holy Father expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Arinze for his "words of affection and the assurance of a special prayer, which you conveyed to me in everyone's name, and for the generous dedication with which you guide the dicastery."

The Pope particularly thanked the congregation “for having quickly complied with the indications of the Encyclical 'Ecclesia de Eucharistia' and of the Apostolic Letter 'Mane nobiscum Domine', preparing first the Instruction 'Redemptionis Scaramentum' and then the 'Suggestions and Proposals' for the year of the Eucharist.”

“It is my hope”, John Paul said, that, “by virtue of these documents, the Christian community may grow in love for the Most Holy Sacrament, and that it may be helped to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice in an ever more worthy fashion, in conformity with liturgical norms and, above all, with true inner participation."

The Pope made specific reference to one of the themes of the plenary gathering, "ars celebrandi," and highlights how, "above all in the celebration of the Eucharist, a living re-presentation of the paschal Mystery, Christ is present and His action is shared in ways appropriate to our humanity, which is so in need of words, signs and rituals.”

The effectiveness of such action is fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit, but it also calls for a human response."

The Holy Father further indicated that the homily, another subject discussed during the plenary session, "has a physiognomy different from that of ordinary catechesis, and commits the person who pronounces it to a dual responsibility: towards the Word and towards the assembly.”

“It is important”, he said, “that the homily not be absent, especially in the Sunday Eucharist. In the context of new evangelization, the homily represents a precious - and for many people, unique - formative opportunity."

The Pope likewise referred to another key theme of the session, liturgical formation, saying, "It is urgent for parish communities, associations and ecclesial movements to guarantee appropriate formative itineraries, in order for the liturgy to become better known in the richness of its language, and for it to be fully experienced.”

“In the measure to which this is done,” the Holy Father said, “beneficial effects on individual and community life will be felt."


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