Journal says Eucharist fundamental to definition of 'Church'
The authoritative Italian journal Civilta Cattolica has argued that only a community that celebrates the Eucharist can be accurately described as a "church".
The editorial in the Italian Jesuit publication draws on the Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which was published in September 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Dominus Iesus affirmed the unique central role of the Catholic Church in the work of salvation.
The articles in Civilta Cattolica carry special weight because they are approved in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The journal argued that in order to qualify as a "church" in the proper sense, a Christian community must have a valid celebration of the Eucharist, and maintain apostolic succession.
The Church, it said, is governed by the college of bishops, who trace their authority in a direct unbroken line to Jesus Christ, who commissioned the original apostles. That direct link to Christ, the apostolic succession, is an indispensable element of the Church's authenticity.
Along with the Catholic Church, Civilta Cattolica observes, the Orthodox Church has also preserved this apostolic succession. Thus, although the Orthodox bodies are not "in full communion with Peter's successor," they remain true churches, with valid sacraments.
When a Christian community lacks one of these two essential elements - as with the Protestant denominations - it should be termed an "ecclesial community" rather than a church, the publication said.
Catholic World News
La CiviltÓ Cattolica
Eucharist Encyclical due out on Holy Thursday (2/4/03)
7 Apr 2003