Questions the Holy See Is Asking About the Eucharist

In Preparation for 2005 Synod

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2004 ( A questionnaire sent out by the Holy See to prepare for next year’s Synod of Bishops will serve to evaluate how the baptized celebrate and live the Blessed Sacrament.

The questionnaire begins with these three questions: «What importance does the celebration of the Eucharist have in the life of your communities and of the faithful? What is the participation in the Holy Mass on Sundays, on weekdays, in the great feasts of the liturgical year? Are there any approximate statistics in this regard?»

The text constitutes the last chapter of the «lineamenta,» or outline, whose answers will be used by the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to write the working document that will provide the basis for the debates of the synodal assembly.

The assembly, scheduled for Oct. 2-29, 2005, is entitled «The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.»

The introduction to the outline said the document is designed to encourage «episcopal conferences, the Eastern Churches ‘sui iuris,’ the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and the Union of Superiors General to invite the participation of all in the Church so that they can enter into discussion and take a pastoral inventory.»

The laity can present their answers through their local bishops.

«To properly prepare for the next stage in the synod process, these responses should arrive at the General Secretariat before 31 December 2004,» the outline indicates.

Below is the full text of the questionnaire.

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1. The Eucharist in the Life of the Church: What importance does the celebration of the Eucharist have in the life of your community and that of the individual believer? What is the frequency of participation at Mass on Sundays? On weekdays? On the major feast days of the liturgical year? Could you supply statistics — even approximate — in this regard?

2. Eucharistic Doctrine and Formation: What attempts are being made to transmit the teaching on the Eucharist, whole and entire, to your community and the individual believer? Specifically, how are The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1322-1419, and the Encyclical Letter «Ecclesia De Eucharistia» being utilized by priests, deacons, consecrated persons and the laity involved in pastoral work? In what way is the formation of faith in the Eucharist being ensured in initial catechesis? In homilies? In the programs of ongoing formation for priests, permanent deacons, and seminarians? Of consecrated persons? Of the laity?

3. The Understanding of the Eucharistic Mystery: What is the prevailing idea on the Eucharist among priests and the faithful of your community: sacrifice?, memorial of the Paschal Mystery?, the precept of Sunday Mass?, fraternal meal?, act of adoration? Other …? Practically speaking, is any one of these ideas prevalent? If so, what is the reason.

4. The Shadows in the Celebration of the Eucharist: In the Encyclical Letter «Ecclesia De Eucharistia» (n. 10) the Holy Father mentions «shadows» in the celebration of the Eucharist. What are the negative aspects (abuses, misunderstandings) existing in Eucharistic worship? What elements or actions done in practice can obscure the profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery? What is the cause of such a disorienting situation for the faithful?

5. The Eucharistic Celebration and Liturgical Norms: In an attempt to be personal and avant-garde, do priests manifest any attitudes in their celebration of Mass which are explicitly or implicitly contrary to the liturgical norms established by the Catholic Church (cf. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, Chapter IV; Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches)? In your estimation, what are the underlying reasons for such behavior? What elements or actions during the celebration of Holy Mass, and also in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass, according to their respective norms and dispositions, should receive attention so as to highlight the profound sense of this great Mystery of the faith hidden in the gift of the Eucharist?

6. The Sacrament of the Eucharist and The Sacrament of Penance: Conversion is necessary to participate fully in partaking of the Eucharist. What is the faithful’s understanding of the relationship between the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist? Holy Mass is also the celebration of salvation from sin and death. For the return of sinners, above all on Sundays, what is provided so that the faithful can celebrate the Sacrament of Penance in time to participate in the Eucharist? Do Christian communities often display a casual approach to receiving Holy Communion or do they unjustifiably refrain from receiving it? What is being done to assist the faithful to discern if they have the proper dispositions to approach this great Sacrament?

7. The Sacred Character of the Eucharist: The Eucharist is the mystery of the Real Presence of God-among-us; at the same time, it is an unfathomable mystery. How should its sacred character be acknowledged? How do priests and the faithful manifest this sacred character in their celebration of Holy Mass on Sundays, weekdays, and major feast days and at other liturgical times during the year? What cultural attitudes and practices obscure this sacred character?

8. Holy Mass and the Celebration of the Word: In parishes awaiting a priest, how widespread is the practice of celebrating the Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of the Eucharist, over which a lay person or Eucharistic minister often presides? What specific formation do those responsible receive? Are the faithful able to understand the difference between such celebrations and Holy Mass? Do they have an adequate knowledge of the distinction between an ordained and non-ordained minister?

9. The Eucharist and the Other Sacraments: To what measure and with what criteria are the other sacraments celebrated during Holy Mass? When the sacraments and sacramentals are celebrated during Holy Mass (Matrimony, Funerals, Baptisms, etc.) with non-practicing Catholics, non-Catholics and unbelievers present, what steps are taken to avoid a casual attitude or even carelessness towards the Eucharist?

10. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: Have the faithful in your parishes preserved faith in the Lord’s Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist? Do they have a clear understanding of the gift of the Lord’s Real Presence? Do situations exist in Eucharistic Liturgies or the Worship of the Eucharist which might lead to a diminished regard for the Real Presence. If so, what might be the reasons?

11. Eucharistic Devotion: Does the Worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament have a due place in parish life and communities? What importance do pastors give to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament? To Perpetual Adoration? To Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament? To personal prayer before the tabernacle? To processions on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ? To Eucharistic devotion in parish missions?

12. Holy Mass and the Liturgical-Devotional Life: Do the faithful understand the difference between Holy Mass and other devotional practices like the Liturgy of the Hours, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals outside of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, processions, etc.? How is the substantial difference shown between Eucharistic celebration and other liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations?

13. Dignity at Eucharistic Celebrations: Is attention given in your Churches to the liturgical environment for Eucharistic celebrations? What is the artistic-architectural setting in which the Eucharistic liturgy is celebrated both on solemn occasions and on weekdays? Do the surroundings give a clear indication that the Eucharistic banquet is truly a «sacred» banquet («Ecclesia De Eucharistia,» 48)? How frequently and for what pastoral reasons is M
ass celebrated outside of this place of worship?

14. The Eucharist and Inculturation: To what measure must attention be given to inculturation in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist so as to avoid a misunderstood creativity which leads to peculiar and strange practices. What criteria are followed in inculturation? In the Latin Church, are the norms proposed in the Instruction «De Liturgia Romana et Inculturazione» given adequate consideration? What is the experience of the Eastern Churches in the inculturation of the Eucharist?

15. The Eschatological Aspect of the Eucharist: Is the eschatological aspect of the Eucharist given sufficient emphasis in catechesis, in ongoing formation, in homiletics and in liturgical celebration? In what way is the eschatological tension flowing from the Eucharist present in pastoral life? How does the celebration of Mass manifest «the Communion of Saints,» a foretaste of the eschatological reality?

16. The Eucharist, Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and the Sects: Considering the ideas on the Eucharist held by our separated brothers and sisters in the West and the challenges of other religions and the sects, how is the mystery of the Most Blessed Sacrament preserved and presented in its entirety, so as not to cause confusion or misunderstanding among the faithful, particularly at ecumenical and interreligious meetings?

17. The Eucharist and Ecclesial «Intercommunion»: «The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be the starting-point for communion» («Ecclesia De Eucharistia,» 35). How are the norms of intercommunion applied (cf. The Code of Canon Law, canon 844)? Are the faithful aware of the norm that a Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist in communities which do not have the Sacrament of Orders (cf. «Ecclesia De Eucharistia,» 46)?

18. The Eucharist and the Moral Life: The Eucharist provides growth in the moral life of the Christian. What do the faithful believe about the necessity of sacramental grace for living according to the Spirit and becoming saints? What do the faithful think about the relation between the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and other aspects of the Christian life: personal sanctification, moral obligations, fraternal charity, the construction of an earthly society, etc.?

19. The Eucharist and Mission: The Eucharist is also a gift for mission. Are the faithful aware that the Sacrament of the Eucharist leads to the mission they have to fulfill in the world, according to their state in life?

20. More on the Eucharist: What other aspects of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not contained in the preceding questions, should be considered in preparing the Instrumentum laboris which will be discussed during the synodal assembly?

[The text of the «lineamenta» may be consulted in the Roman Curia section of the Vatican’s Web page, in the area marked «Synod of Bishops»]

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