Benedict seeks return to Catholic "classics"

In a major document on the Eucharist released overnight, Pope Benedict has called for a renewed emphasis on the Latin Mass, Gregorian chant and classical church art as well as insisting on the obligatory "witness of virginity" in the Latin Church.

Summing up the results of the October 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in an Apostolic Exhortation, "Sacramentum Caritatis", Pope Benedict reiterated his strong opposition to remarried Catholics and non-Catholic Christians taking part in the Eucharist and invited priests to refrain from celebrating the Mass during weddings or funerals attended by non-practising Catholics, DPA reports.

"I ask that future priests ... be trained to understand and celebrate Holy Mass in Latin, use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chants," the pope wrote in a call for a return to Church classics.

According to Church rules adopted in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council of 1965, congregations wishing to celebrate Mass in Latin were forced to seek permission from Rome or from their local bishops.

However, Hobart Archbishop Adrian Doyle, who attended the bishops' synod, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the Pope's preference for Latin prayers would be unlikely to change the celebration of Mass at parish level.

According to the Herald, Pope Benedict also criticised styles of musical accompaniment, the colour of the priests' vestments and even church art.

Addressing the issue of remarried Catholics, Benedict said these should not be admitted to the sacrament as "their status and their life condition objectively contradict the union of love between Jesus and the Church" represented by the Eucharist.

However, Pope Benedict proposes an alternative for "people who, having celebrated a valid marriage, ... find themselves unable to obtain a nullity of the marriage bond".

The pope suggests that "with appropriate pastoral assistance", remarried couples commit themselves "to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God's law, as friends, as brother and sister", in other words transforming their bond into a fraternal friendship.

"Matrimony and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from any possible misunderstanding," Pope Benedict insisted.

Non-Catholics at Catholic services

The pope also reiterated that Protestants should not be allowed to take part in communion at Catholic services.

"The Eucharist does not simply manifest our personal communion with Jesus Christ, it also implies full communion with the (Catholic) Church. This is the reason why with pain, but not without hope, we ask non-Catholic Christians to understand and respect our conviction," the pope wrote.

Benedict has vowed to promote Christian unity, but relations with Anglicans and Protestants have made little progress since his election as pope two years ago.

The pope was particularly harsh in criticising Holy Masses held during funerals or weddings that are attended by non-practising Catholics or members of other faiths.

"In situations whereby it is not possible to guarantee proper clarity on the meaning of the Eucharist, one should consider the opportunity of substituting the Eucharistic Celebration with a celebration of the Word of God," the pope wrote.

Keep holy the Lord's Day

The pontiff also warned that Catholics should not be slaves to work.

Civil society needed to recognise that Sunday was the Lord's day and should be a day of rest from work, the pope said.

"It is indispensable that people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or idolise it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life," the Pope said.

Celibacy a "priceless treasure"

Despite calls from Catholics in Australia and Europe to relax celibacy rules to permit married priests, the Pope has upheld the "witness of virginity" as a "priceless treasure" that would remain "obligatory in the Latin tradition".

A more equitable distribution of clergy would help solve the priest shortage and more Catholic men needed to be open to priestly calling.

The teaching document is expected to be followed by a papal edict making it easier for Catholics to attend the Latin Tridentine Mass, which dates back 1600 years.

According to Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola, who took part in a Vatican ceremony to present the new papal document, Pope Benedict's document also introduces a "significant doctrinal novelty", namely the "the importance of ars celebrandi (art of celebration)" which aims to promote "an ever greater actuosa participatio (full, active and fruitful participation)".

Pope blesses some of that old-time religion (Sydney Morning Herald, 14/3/07)
Vatican releases "Sacramentum Caritatis" with press conference (Catholic News Agency, 13/3/07)
Pope Benedict's post-synodal Eucharist document to be released (Catholic Online, 6/3/07)
Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist one week away, Vatican announces (Catholic News Agency, 6/3/07)
Pope issues strict rules on the Eucharist, brings back Latin Mass (Monsters and Critics, 13/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sacramentum Caritatis

Kiwi bishop challenges Synod to review communion ban for divorced (CathNews, 6/10/05)
Pope talks to Synod about collegiality (CathNews 5/10/05)
Pope opens Synod with Eucharist link to peaceful, just society (CathNews 4/10/05)
Aussie Synod expert stresses Eucharist values before rules (CathNews 29/9/05)
Two Australians on auditors list for October Synod (CathNews 27/9/05)
Synod tipped to stress Sunday Mass obligation (CathNews 28/9/05)
Pope names four mainland Chinese bishops to October synod (CathNews 9/9/05)
Synod threat to youth masses (CathNews 25/7/05)

Victoria's Latin gladiators salute language maximus glorious (The Age, 14/3/07)

14 Mar 2007