Opus Dei head argues against giant masses

Speaking yesterday at the Synod of Bishops in Rome, the head of Opus Dei cautioned against the holding of giant masses where many thousands of people worship together and receive communion.

CLICK HEREReuters reports that Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez said such large-scale celebrations could sometimes be a detriment to the "sacred nature" of the mass.

According to an excerpt of his speech given out to reporters and a briefing by a spokesman, Echevarria said the Church should "re-think whether Eucharistic celebrations (masses) with an excessive number of concelebrants is opportune".

Echevarria said that when there were so many priests saying it at the same time "it does not make the dignified carrying out of the mass possible".

Popes have concelebrated mass with dozens, sometimes hundreds of priests at huge outdoor masses attended by hundreds of thousands of people on fields and in other large locations.

One such mass was held by Pope Benedict last August when hundreds of thousands of young people turned out for the final event at World Youth Day celebrations in his native Germany.

Echevarria told the synod, which advises the Pope on Church matters and is meeting until 23 October, that there were sometimes so many priests at a concelebrated mass that they could not even see each other.

Echevarria, who is the "prelate", or head, of Opus Dei, also suggested the synod should discuss whether it was proper for the communion host to be distributed during masses for large numbers of people.

He said such large-scale distribution of communion, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ, is sometimes "a detriment to the dignity of worship".

He added: "The importance of maintaining a sense of the sacred in Eucharistic liturgies will render the Church a great amount of good."

Ironically, in another address to the synod, Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Rome said one of his fondest memories was a mass during the 2000 World Youth Day celebrations in Rome.

That mass was presided over by Pope John Paul and attended by more than a million young people on the grounds of a university on the city's outskirts.

In another development at the synod on Thursday, the Vatican decided to partially lift a clampdown on information given to reporters about the discussions among bishops.

Priests who are briefing journalists said on Wednesday that would only disclose the theme of what a bishop said during the daily open discussion part of the gathering but no details.

Opus Dei head criticises holding of giant masses (Reuters 6/10/05)

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7 Oct 2005