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Extraordinary ministers of Communion (letter)
I can identify with the abuses mentioned by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Canalini, in his homily at the annual gathering of Australian religious congregations in Brisbane (August AD2000).
I found his homily very mild, indeed charitable, and I cannot understand why several unnamed religious present were angry. The Nuncio did not mention names, parishes or dioceses but only quoted from the recent instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum.
The instruction lists a number of liturgical abuses, of which the Nuncio mentioned only a few in his homily. One of these is the routine use of "extraordinary ministers" of Holy Communion. The Instruction on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests states in Article 8, §2:
"Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at Eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion. They may also exercise this function at Eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion".
Elizabeth Harrington, education officer with the Brisbane Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, wrote in her column Liturgy Lines (The Catholic Leader, 22 August 2004):
"I attended Mass where no extraordinary ministers were used ... the communion rite took a disproportionate length of time, much longer than the readings from Scripture."
My own research revealed that while the Mass readings took about nine minutes to complete, the distribution of Communion to 110 people was managed in under seven-and-a-half minutes. A single priest could easily distribute Communion to a much larger number of people without involving a "disproportionate length of time", e.g., twice as long as the readings.
Those of the faithful who are fully aware of the real presence of Jesus Christ need time to reflect on this and enjoy the closeness with Jesus in their hearts. So, why the hurry? Most Catholics attend Mass on Sundays only. Is one hour or even ninety minutes too much? We must never forget that the Lord gave us six days and kept only one day for himself.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 17 No 10 (November 2004), p. 16
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