Synod worried Catholics misunderstand Real Presence
A major concern of the October Synod of Bishops has been that many Catholics do not seem to understand how Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.
Yet Catholic News Service (CNS) reports that after nearly three weeks of discussion, the bishops did not find an easy way to explain this fundamental concept of the faith.
Instead, they spent considerable time debating the theological fine points of the church's teaching on the real presence of Christ. That led to discussions of such complex topics as transubstantiation versus transignification, or "sacramental presence" as distinct from other forms of Christ's presence in the world.
CNS says some participants, like German Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, worried that the real presence is largely seen as symbolic. He cited the influence of a secular society that does not easily accept transcendent realities and said Catholics need to be taught that Christ is "truly, really and substantially contained in holy Communion."
Several bishops wanted the synod to clarify the "moment of transubstantiation," in view of liturgical differences in Latin and Eastern Catholic church communities.
Others said the church should clarify to the faithful that the consecration of the bread and wine in the Eucharist brings a change in substance, but not a change in physical matter. They called for a new way of teaching transubstantiation.
Some emphasised the personal transformation that takes place in the Eucharist as the best way to understand that Christ is truly present.
One thing that emerged clearly from the synod debate was that this is not a simple topic. Some bishops said it presented a critical pastoral challenge.
"The mystery of the Eucharist is not being presented well to the faithful, which means there must be some difficulty in communicating it. There must be something wrong with our catechesis," Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, South Korea, told CNS.
"The catechism that has developed on this in the Western culture is too rational and too philosophical. We can't ask too much of the simple people, who have no theological formation," he said.
Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar of Rome, told the synod that at the recent World Youth Day celebrations in Germany he had trouble explaining the real presence to young people because they understood "only the visible."
In Africa there are different problems, including the need for the church to distinguish between the real presence of the Eucharist and the worship of idols in animist religions.
A child put it in simpler language last Saturday when he asked Pope Benedict XVI: "My catechism teacher told me that Jesus was present in the Eucharist. But how can that be? I can't see him."
The pope replied that many things are real but cannot be seen -- like the mind, the spirit and even electricity. People know these things exist because they see their effects, and the same is true of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, he said.
Synod concerned that Catholics misunderstand real presence of Christ (Catholic News Service 19/10/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Synod of Bishops
Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin
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Kiwi bishop challenges Synod to review communion ban for divorced (CathNews 6/10/05)
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Aussie Synod expert stresses Eucharist values before rules (CathNews 29/9/05)
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Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (CathNews 9/9/05)
Synod threat to youth masses (CathNews 25/7/05)
Meeting of language groups (Vatican Information Service 19/10/05)
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Divine forgiveness is theme of papal audience (Catholic World News 19/10/05)
Synod proposals back existing Church policies (Catholic World News 19/10/05)
Synod proposals will be made public (Catholic World News 19/10/05)
Statement on married priests likely in final list of proposals (National Catholic Reporter 17/10/05)
Women's voices heard through interventions of 12 synod auditors (National Catholic Reporter 17/10/05)
Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline (National Catholic Reporter 18/10/05)
Gregory: Little change expected but synod had honest talk of pastoral realities (National Catholic Reporter 19/10/05)
Call for African music at Synod (The Universe 19/10/05)
Synod Presents Draft of List of 50 Propositions (Zenit 18/10/05)
20 Oct 2005