Communion Proposal Highlights Spring Assembly of American Bishops

Friday 25 June 2021

Photo CNS / Bob Roller

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A priest holds the Eucharist in this illustration.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Eucharist was the focus of the spring virtual assembly of American bishops from June 16-18.

On June 17, they heard a full presentation of a proposal to draft a document on “the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church”, followed by a long discussion and a vote. And by a wide margin, announced on June 18, the bishops gave the green light for the drafting process to continue.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Doctrine Committee will draft the document and present it for discussion when the bishops meet in person in November. The action to move forward passes 168 to 55. There were six abstentions.

For more than two hours, 43 bishops expressed divergent views on the drafting of such a document. Some stressed that the document was necessary to clarify the meaning of the Eucharist, while others questioned its timing and whether it could be seen as fracturing the unity of a Church already facing many challenges. .

Although the bishops did not reach a consensus during the discussion, most of those who spoke at the commentary session welcomed the idea of ​​strengthening teaching on the Eucharist.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chair of the doctrine committee, presented a proposed plan to the bishops in a pre-recorded message.

He said this had been developed in light of Catholics’ declining belief in the real presence in the Eucharist as well as long absences from regular Mass attendance, which may have led people to give less time. importance of the Eucharist in their life.

The Communion document was also a key point of discussion during the press conferences on June 16 and 17.

On June 17, Bishop Rhoades pointed out that the creation of national standards was never the intention behind a proposal to write a new declaration on the Eucharist. He said it would be aimed at providing guidance to bishops.

“We have been teaching in recent years about Catholics in political life, the importance of adhering to the teaching of the Church in the document on the dignity of receiving Holy Communion, in 2006,” said the Bishop Rhoades. “But with this new strategic plan that will focus on the Eucharist, this three-year plan, we have to re-teach that, at different levels.”

The bishop was referring to a multi-year national Eucharistic revival initiative that is part of the 2021-2024 strategic plan of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The renewal has been in preparation for over a year.

This revival aims to put more emphasis on the Eucharist at all levels of the Church in the United States starting next summer and culminating in a large-scale national event in 2024.

The initiative aims to “renew the Church by awakening a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist,” said Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis, chair of the Evangelism Committee and catechesis of the USCCB.

In a presentation to the bishops on June 18, he described it as a “movement of Catholics across the United States, healed, converted, formed and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist – and sent on mission”.

After three years, he said, it is hoped that more than 100,000 missionaries will be ready to “share the love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with our world”.

During their virtual assembly, the bishops also discussed their efforts on immigration, Native American / Alaska Native ministry, catechesis and pastoral settings for youth and youth, and the ministries of marriage and marriage. family.

The bishops also voted to approve three sets of translations from the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL, on: the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church; additional intercessions and closing prayers of the Psalter for the Liturgy of the Hours; and the Order of Penance.

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments must now issue a “confirmatio” before the translations can be used.

On June 16, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco gave a presentation on the “Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love” project.

He is chairman of the Committee of Bishops on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which drafted the document.

The bishops approved it by 212 votes to 13, with four abstentions.

They were also asked to authorize the development of a new formal declaration and overall vision for the Alaskan Native American Department, which they approved 223-6.

“A pastoral plan will help reassure Native Catholics that their ministry has a high priority in the Church,” said Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, NM, chair of the USCCB’s subcommittee on Native American affairs . He said the last time the general assembly adopted a major pastoral plan for Native Americans was in 1977.

By 222 votes to 7, the bishops also approved a new national pastoral framework on the accompaniment of young people and young adults in the Church.

The bishop of Dallas Edward J. Burns, a member of the bishops’ committee on laity, marriage, family life and youth, presented the proposal. The committee will develop it for presentation to the bishops for consideration at their general assembly in November 2022.

He said the pastoral setting would be formed in light of Christus Vivit (Christ lives), Pope Francis’ 2019 reflections on the Synod of Bishops of the previous year on young people.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chairman of the Bishops’ Catechism Subcommittee, spoke to bishops about the challenges his committee faces in monitoring catechism work for conformity with the Catholic Church’s catechism.

To help with this, he said, he hopes to form an institute that would involve bishops, diocesan leaders, and writers, editors and consultants of catechetical material and provide ongoing training and mentorship.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, bishops learned that many American places of worship – from chapels to cathedrals – appeared to ignore the presence of Catholic refugees, immigrants, migrants and other “moving people” near.

“There is a general lack of awareness of the presence of communities by Catholic worship sites,” said Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Wash., Chairman of the American Bishops’ Subcommittee on Theatrical Support migrants, refugees and travelers, speaking on June 18.

The subcommittee hired the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate to conduct a survey of American places of worship to collect data on the movement of Catholics across the country.

CARA has found that the Archdioceses of Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, Atlanta, and Galveston-Houston are among the American archdioceses with the greatest number of people passing through their territories.

Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chair of the Bishops Committee on Migration, gave a brief presentation on a June 1-2 meeting of Catholic leaders on immigration.

Prelates from the United States, Central America and Mexico, as well as officials from various prominent Catholic organizations, met at Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago to discuss welcoming migrants, their defending and exploring the causes that force many to leave their country of origin.

On the first day of the Spring Virtual Assembly of Bishops, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope’s Nuncio, and Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez, President of the USCCB, delivered speeches stressing the need for unity as the Church emerges from the pandemic year.

Some of Bishop Pierre’s remarks on June 16 seemed to predict the difficulty the bishops might encounter in debating whether to approve the drafting of the communion document.

“At the heart of dialogue is communicating one’s own personal life to others,” he said, adding that the aim of such dialogue “should be unity and not just doctrinal and legal unity” .

Archbishop Gomez said the events of the past year would likely shape the Church’s vision “for years to come.” This is why unity is important, he added. He also noted that unity does not mean that the bishops will never disagree, for even the apostles disagreed, “but never on the truth of the gospel.”

In a June 16 report, Scott Voynich, chairman of the National Advisory Council, said the group of lay people, clergy and religious were particularly supportive of the national Eucharistic revival initiative for bishops.

He said the council was concerned about the lack of clarity on the Eucharist among Catholics and felt the bishops should explain this better, but its members were also concerned that the plan could be seen as a burden, not an inspiration, for priests.

In a report to the bishops on June 17, Suzanne Healy, chair of the National Review Board, noted that while important steps have been taken to help achieve healing and reconciliation with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, much work remains to be done for the American Catholic Church.

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