VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI released his second major document, an apostolic exhortation that reflects the conclusions of the 2005 synod on the Eucharist.
At a press conference today, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic presented the document, “Sacramentum Caritatis” (Sacrament of Charity).
The document, dated Feb. 22, reflects the conclusions of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome from Oct. 2 to 23, 2005.
Cardinal Scola, who was the relator general of the synodal assembly, said the title of the apostolic exhortation reaffirms “the Holy Father’s insistence over these two years of his pontificate on the truth of love.”
The cardinal said that this clearly indicates that this is “one of the crucial themes upon which the future of the Church and of humanity depend.”
The text “is divided into three sections, each one of which considers one of the three dimensions of the Eucharist,” Cardinal Scola explained.
The sections are entitled: “The Eucharist, a Mystery to Be Believed,” “The Eucharist, a Mystery to Be Celebrated,” and “The Eucharist, a Mystery to Be Lived.”
Benedict XVI explains that the Eucharist “makes manifest that ‘greater’ love which led (Christ) to ‘lay down his life for his friends.'”
“In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image and likeness and becomes our companion along the way,” the Holy Father writes. “In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom.
“Since only the truth can make us free, Christ becomes for us the food of truth.”
Validity of renewal
Gathering the proposals that emerged from the synod on the Eucharist, where the Pope introduced free interventions, the text asserts: “The synod fathers acknowledged and reaffirmed the beneficial influence on the Church’s life of the liturgical renewal which began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
“The Synod of Bishops was able to evaluate the reception of the renewal in the years following the Council.
“There were many expressions of appreciation. The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored.”
The first part of the document, a mystery to be believed, is made up of seven sections, including an analysis of the Eucharist’s relationship to each of the sacraments.
Celibacy and marriage
The document confirms the discipline of priestly celibacy.
“The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church,” the Pope explains. “It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms.
“Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ’s own way of life.”
Benedict XVI asks that priests “have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is.”
The exhortation ratifies the indissolubility of matrimony: “If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God’s love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires.”
The Holy Father considers the “complex and troubling pastoral problem” of those who have divorced and civilly remarried.
“The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist,” the Pope writes.
“Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children,” he adds.
The greater part of the text is dedicated to teaching how to live the Eucharist more intensely and to reflect on its beauty. It offers indications for the homily, for the rite of peace and for the end of the Mass.
“The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself,” the Pope says to encourage Eucharistic adoration.
“Wherever possible, it would be appropriate, especially in densely populated areas, to set aside specific churches or oratories for perpetual adoration,” he adds. “I also recommend that, in their catechetical training, and especially in their preparation for First Holy Communion, children be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus, and helped to cultivate a sense of awe before his presence in the Eucharist.”