Pope Benedict XVI has called on all the faithful to take an active part in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist to be held in Rome next month.
Speaking during his weekly Angelus address from his summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo on September 4, the Holy Father asked that the “entire ecclesial community” join the Bishops in examining the “Instrument of Work” that has been prepared for the “final phase” of the Year of the Eucharist.
The faithful, he said, should “feel a part of this phase of immediate preparation and to participate through prayer and reflection, valuing each occasion, event and meeting”.
The Synod, which runs from October 2 until October 23, is called “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church”.
Pope Benedict reminded pilgrims how much devotion Pope John Paul II had to the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament, and how much he wanted the Year to “reawaken in Christian people faith, awe and love towards this great sacrament which constitutes the true treasure of the Church”.
“Through his sickness, in the last months, he was assimilated even more in the suffering of Christ,” Pope Benedict explained.
“It is striking to think that at the hour of his death, he was uniting the offering of his life to that of Christ during Mass which was being celebrated at his bedside.” Noting that John Paul II ended his earthly existence at the end of the Octave of Easter, right in the heart of the Eucharistic Year, Pope Bene dict said he felt it a joy to “reaffirm” the centrality of the Real Presence of Christ in the life of the Church and every Christian.
He also drew attention to the numerous references he made to the Eucharistic mystery during World Youth Day whose theme wsa “We Have Come to Adore Him”. He remembered fondly how this adoration continued “day and night” so that the youth “could discover the beauty of contemplative prayer”.
The Holy Father also exhorted Christians to keep Sunday as a “a sacred day”, something that he said John Paul had promoted through his emphasis on the liturgy and the “convenient celebration of the Eucharist”. Pope Benedict will preside at the opening Mass of the Synod on October 2, and is expected to make regular appearances at its plenary meetings. Was it wise or foolish? Last week, it was leaked to the Italian press that Pope Benedict XVI had granted a private audience with the Italian writer Oriana Fallaci.
The 76-year-old New York resident has, over the past three years, denigrated moderate Islam as a fraud and an illu sion, denounced multiculturalism as a farce, and said that Muslim immigrants are turning Europe into “Eurabia”.
Her outspoken comments have won her libertarian friends on the far Right, but resulted in an Italian judge committing her to trial for offending Muslims. Other ongoing legal proceedings against her exist in France and Switzerland. So why did the Holy Father agree to meet her on August 27?
Vatican officials say it is in line with the policies of every Pope to grant (or at least consider) audiences to all those who request to meet him, just as it is in keeping with the universal nature of the Church. Furthermore, it shows the wisdom of a Pope who is willing to listen carefully to mainstream secular opinion (Fallaci describes herself as a “devout atheist”). Others say it shows a side to Benedict more explicitly “hawkish” than Pope John Paul II, and reflects his desire that Muslims root out fanaticism.
For her part, Fallaci probably wished to explore any parallels that might exist between her and the Pope. She also has cancer and may be converting. The audience, requested by Fallaci, was given in secret; even Fallaci’s sister was unaware her sibling was in Rome. Yet coming after a spate of atrocities perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, some are questioning whether this meeting, secret or not, was ever prudent at such a sensitive time.
It was only a small demonstration, but it raised some important questions. On September 2, a dozen or so progay Christians, currently on a “gay cruise” from Los Angeles, gathered in St Peter’s Square to commemorate the suicide of Alfredo Ormando. Seven years ago, Ormando, 39 and a nonpractising homosexual, set himself alight in the square in protest at the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. His parents were devout Catholics who, he wrote, had rejected him.
Chanting “We will not forget Ormando!” the group angrily decried the Church for calling them “intrinsically evil”. They vociferously rejected attempts to explain the Church’s true teaching – that it was homosexual genital acts, rather than homosexuality itself, that the Church considers sinful. They dismissed this “an insult”; celibacy was deemed “ridiculous”.
Yet these were clearly arguments they had not heard before. This leads one to ask whether the Church should be improving the way she explains her teaching, both to homosexual Catholics and their relatives.