Benedict XVI's long-awaited apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist was released on 13 March, as this journal went to press. Titled Sacramentum Caritatis, the new document summarises and concludes the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops, which met in October 2005 to discuss the different facets of the Eucharist.
Sacramentum Caritatis follows John Paul II's encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (on a deepened appreciation of the central mystery of faith), Redemptionis Sacramentum (on correct liturgy) and Liturgiam Authenticam (guidelines for liturgical translations).
Overall, these documents seek to purify the implementation of liturgical renewal as mandated by the Second Vatican Council, a massive enterprise which could take another generation to accomplish, given the extent of ignorance, misinformation and entrenched practices in parts of the Church.
In 2005, the Synod of Bishops discussed the theme, 'The Eucharist: Living Bread for Peace in the World,' with 256 bishops from 118 countries participating. In a break from the usual custom, the Synod Fathers made public a list of the 50 propositions approved at the conclusion of their deliberations.
The Synod in one proposition noted that the liturgical reforms of Vatican II contained 'riches not fully explored.'
Ordinarily the propositions remain confidential, to be used by the Pope in preparing his apostolic exhortation, however, Benedict made it clear he wanted the propositions made public. In fact, the likely drift of his apostolic exhortation was evident in his extensive writings of the past 20 years.
Among the propositions, clerical celibacy is upheld, as is the reaffirmation of the Church's teaching on Communion for the divorced and remarried and on general inter-communion. Anti-life Catholic politicians are taken to task on their reception of Communion and bishops are told to clamp down on general absolutions.
Benedict's apostolic exhortation will be considered in some depth in next month's AD2000.
Michael Gilchrist, Editor