VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The lack of religious practice among many Catholics is due to a failure to understand the sacrament of the Eucharist, say bishops’ conferences.
That insight was gleaned from the answers that episcopal conferences worldwide have sent to the Vatican, in response to a questionnaire on the Eucharist in preparation for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops.
This point appears in the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, of the assembly of the world’s bishops, which will be held in Rome from Oct. 2-23. The topic of the synod is “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.”
The 90-page working document, which will serve as the basis for the addresses at the assembly, was presented to the press today by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops.
The text was written after sending the “lineamenta,” or outline, and a questionnaire to 113 episcopal conferences; 11 Synods of Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches; 25 dicasteries of the Roman Curia; and the Union of Superiors General of religious congregations and orders.
“The percentage of replies from the mentioned institutions exceeded 90%,” said Archbishop Eterovic. “Numerous observations from bishops, priests, men and women religious and, above all, the laity” have also arrived.
Part 1 of the working document, entitled “Eucharist and the Present-Day World,” explains that from the responses to the questionnaire one can deduce that attendance at “Mass on Sunday is quite high in several local Churches of African nations and in some of the Asian” Churches.
“The opposite phenomenon is verified, instead, in most of the European and American countries and in some of Oceania, reaching negative extremes of 5%,” notes the working document.
“In the majority of cases, faithful who neglect the Sunday precept do not give particular importance to attendance at Mass,” it states. “In the end, they do not know what the Sacrifice and Eucharistic banquet is all about, which gathers the faithful around the altar of the Lord.”
“A more continuous and intense catechesis should be promoted in relation to the importance and obligation to attend Holy Mass on Sundays and days of obligation,” continues the document. “At times the importance of the obligation is devalued, stating that it is sufficient to fulfill it when the state of spirit suggests it.”
Among the most worrying phenomena is the fact that there is “a decline in the practice of the faith and in participation in the Mass, primarily among young people,” it states.
“This calls for reflection in regard to how much time pastors and catechists dedicate to educating youths and children in the faith and how much time is allocated instead to other activities, such as those of a social character,” notes the document.
Another concern is the perception of “a weakening of the sense of mystery in secularized societies,” it adds.
“Among other things, this can be attributed to interpretations and actions that deform the meaning of the Council’s liturgical reformation and that result in trivial rites that are lacking in spiritual meaning,” the document says.
It does, however, reflect “satisfaction with an inculturated liturgy that makes possible greater active participation,” especially in the Mass.
The two great dangers that threaten the Eucharist today in Christian communities are “the secularization of salvation and religious relativism,” the working document states.
It explains: “The first leads to commitment in favor of man, but a man that is reduced unilaterally to a horizontal dimension. At times it seems that some link the vocation of minister of the mysteries of God with that of organizer of social justice.”
For its part, religious relativism “leads to the abolishment of the truth of Christianity, as it is maintained that one religion is as good as another.”
However, the document aims, not to foster “pessimism,” but to advocate the “missionary activity of the Church.”
To achieve this, “exemplary environments” are required “in which the Eucharist is really accepted with faith and correctly celebrated, places in which one can live personally what the Eucharist is: The only true answer to the search for the meaning of life, which characterizes men of all areas.”