Archbishop of Madrid on the Synod

Interview With Cardinal Rouco

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2005 ( The general report given by Cardinal Angelo Scola, put the synod on the «right track,» says the archbishop of Madrid, Spain.

In this interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, commented on the first meetings of the assembly dedicated to the Eucharist, Benedict XVI’s first synod as Pope.

Q: What have been the synod’s first experiences these days?

Cardinal Rouco: On one hand, I see the continuity of form and manner in the holding of synods, as they were conceived immediately after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.

On the other hand, however, the experience has some new aspects. It has to do, first of all, with the fact that the one who presides over the synod is a new Pope, Benedict XVI; and it also has to do with certain changes in the methodology of work, which give the synod certain flexibility.

It also has the novelty of being the conclusion of a year of intense preparation by the whole Church, in the aspect of a cultivated ecclesial experience, lived and deepened around the topic of the Eucharist, which was preceded by an encyclical of John Paul II, «Ecclesia de Eucharistia,» coupled with another beautiful one, «Mane Nobiscum, Domine,» which was, in some way, the prologue for John Paul II’s holy death.

Q: The first day, Cardinal Angelo Scola gave the «general report,» in which he highlighted the most important topics of this synod. Which are the ones you consider most important?

Cardinal Rouco: Firstly, Cardinal Scola’s «report» took as its starting point the topic of the «instrumentum laboris,» which was made widely known in the whole Church. But, of course, he presented his own configuration. It was a very good «general report.» I would underline three basic points in it.

First, is what he called the amazement of the Eucharist. For 2,000 years, the sacrament of the Eucharist has been celebrated as the moment in which the Church is amazed by a very great love, by an absolutely unsurpassable love. And she lives this donation actualized by Christ on the cross and risen for our salvation, without getting tired, so to speak, but rather quite the opposite, feeling constantly the need to celebrate it again, and to have it again before us.

That amazement continues alive today, of course, and pastorally we must try, in the synod, to keep it alive. It is an amazement that has to do with the paschal mystery. If the Eucharist is separated from the paschal mystery, from Christ’s substantial presence, then, of course, there is not amazement at all, but the celebration of the Eucharist is reduced to a pure formula of human celebration, at the service of the purely human interests of those who take part in it.

Second, I must stress the importance that he attributed to the Eucharist as gift. The Eucharist is a gift of the Lord to the Church. It is not a possession of the members of the Church to which they have a right above any consideration of faith, clean conscience, life, etc., but altogether the contrary, it must be received with a well-disposed soul.

And, lastly, my attention was also caught by the category of freedom he used in the «general report» to understand the structure of this gift. On one hand, it is an absolutely free gift, because it is the infinite love of God the Father who gives us the Son, a mystery of the unity of the Spirit who gives it to the Church.

And, on the other, which calls for a free response, which appeals to the freedom of man, who also feels that he was born to express himself in a response of love. And of a love with a structural correspondence as God’s love. In other words, it is a love of oblation, a self-giving love, of gift of self, thus responding to the love of God.

This was the most riveting point in the «general report.» It was a pity he was unable to read the last part, on the Christological, cosmic and anthropological dimension of the Eucharist, but I think he has placed us very well on the track of the synod.

Q: Some who read the newspapers perhaps have the perception that, in fact, there is discussion going on here of much more specific topics — the ordination of married priests, for example. Are these questions being asked in the assembly?

Cardinal Rouco: Cardinal Scola went more deeply into the theology that links priestly celibacy with the priesthood and the priestly ministry; precisely in the spousal category of a Christ who gives himself to the Church, and he wants her to be missionary; and in that of a total response of the one who serves the Church in the name of that Church.

These questions will arise in, for example, the vocational pastoral program; the evangelization of young people, of the Church, in which, where the faith is not lived neither will the birth of vocations be possible.

Q: Tell us about the spontaneous homily given by Benedict XVI on Monday.

Cardinal Rouco: He gave us a commentary on the reading of the Second Letter to the Corinthians (13:11), which he did freely, but in a way, first of all, theologically beautiful, deep; second, very well founded exegetically; and third — and what most caught my attention — a most singular spiritual meditation, which had nothing artificial about it, nothing sanctimonious, but something very vivid for him personally.

In the end, it was a most beautiful meditation. Moreover, from the didactic point of view, it was perfectly ordered, perfectly developed, diaphanously expressed.

It was the letter of the five imperatives and a promise: «Rejoice, brethren. Aspire to perfection. Exhort one another. Think and feel the same way. Have peace. And then the God of love and peace will be with you.»

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