REFLECTIONS ON THE
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Within the ever-present limitations of time and skill we have prepared
a final version of “Reflections on the Lineamenta” and will send this
to Rome and to each of our Australian Bishops.
Thank you – to all those who sent in comments, brief ones and lengthy
ones, on the original draft. Many of these are incorporated in this document
which is due in Rome before 31st December.
Some time in 2005 the actual agenda (Instrumentum Laboris) for the Synod
will be available. We will prepare a submission based on that document
in due course – and aim to discuss that with the Bishops Committee for
Clergy and Religious in May.
Please continue thinking, praying, writing so that the observations, experiences
and hopes of Australian Priests are all represented.
May Christmas be a time of Grace, Peace and Joy for you and the people
with whom you share it.
Fr Hal Ranger – Chair
National Council of Priests
REFLECTIONS on the LINEAMENTA
The Introduction to the Lineamenta for the Eleventh Ordinary General
Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The Eucharist : Source and
Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church” makes a most important
point: “The Eucharist presupposes ecclesial communion (communio),
a communion which the Sacrament brings to perfection”
The Lineamenta document continues with the expressed wish that the treatment
of the Sacrament of the Eucharist will ensure that the Eucharist maintain
its central place in the life of the Church, especially in parishes
At its broadest level “communion” refers to God’s
plan for the whole of creation. God the Son and the Holy Spirit come
into the world to heal the wounds of sin and division. Through the Church
Christ’s mission in the world is continued in two particular ways:
1. Each day the members of the Church seek to live a life of “communio”
in love as completely as they are able and at the Eucharist share sacramentally
in the perfect communion of the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit.
2. The members of the Church live a service of love in the world to
build “communio” and peace and unity among people everywhere.
It is within the context of this two-fold mission and in order to inspire
and bring about this two-fold mission that we would like the Synod to
examine the gift of Eucharist.
B. SOME OBSERVATIONS
We offer the following observations based on extensive knowledge of
the life and practice of Australian Priests.
1. The vast majority of Australian Priests, far from introducing abuses
or devaluing the Mystery we celebrate, exercise our leadership of Eucharist
with deep faith, prayerfulness and respect. Our profound and sincere
belief in the Eucharist as sacrifice, as memorial of the Paschal Mystery,
as source and summit of our “communio” to the world….
this is what drives us and moves us. Rather than more rubrics or detailed
instructions, we would welcome encouragement and affirmation in playing
our part in “celebrating the Mystery of God made visible in Jesus.”
It is surprising and of concern to us that there are no questions in
the Lineamenta document about the serious shortage of Priests in many
places and the consequent impossibility for many communities to celebrate
Eucharist frequently and regularly.
2. We are concerned about the increasing number of communities being
deprived of weekly Eucharist because of the lack of ordained ministers.
We affirm our fidelity to the authentic Catholic Tradition, and we value
the gift of liturgical legislation in protecting communities from abuse;
but we are scandalised when the gnat of abuse is so carefully strained
out while the camel of dying communities is being swallowed. (Cf Mt23:24).
3. The Mystery we celebrate is about the extraordinary life and love
of God being incarnated in Jesus Christ, and in us the members of his
Body, in the ordinariness of human life. The life, death and rising
of Jesus is a profound mystery – but His words, actions, thoughts
are visible, tangible, available to ordinary humans. To “clothe”
the Mystery in obscure, foreign words and signs seems inconsistent with
the truth and wonderful ordinariness of the incarnation.
The language and the signs used in celebrating Eucharist will mean only
as much as their power to speak to the hearts of broken and fragmented
ordinary human beings. Australian people and Priests recognise the need
to both celebrate and be Eucharist. The Real Presence of Christ cannot
be confined to a tabernacle nor be expressed in pious but obscure words.
In both the celebration of Eucharist and the living of Eucharist lives
we express the dynamics of Christ’s ongoing incarnation.
4. The Eucharist must always be expressive of and intimately connected
with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus AND of the people actually
gathered on each particular occasion.
This requires both fidelity to the authentic Catholic Tradition and
sensitive inclusion of the reality of each gathering of people, whose
particular culture, language and real life situations are respected
and transformed (CHRISTened)
? The Eucharist is a time of transformation – of the bread and
wine and of those who are taking part.
? The Eucharist is from earliest times a Sacrament of
5. We would like to see more emphasis on the great need for the people
of God to understand that participation in the Eucharist propels us
into being Christ for the POOR, WOUNDED and MARGINALISED people of our
The real presence of Christ in the poorest of the poor cannot be separated
from the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
6. Every faith community is priestly through Baptism, every faith community
is Eucharistic through Baptism. Some, but by no means all communities,
are further enabled to celebrate Eucharist through the presence of an
ordained Priest in their community.
The foundational Eucharistic character of every community of faith,
with or without a resident ordained Priest, needs to be explored and
We make the following requests, asking that these issues be included
in the “Instrumentum Laboris” and earnestly discussed at
1. We ask that the Synod would reaffirm the authority and rights of
each Diocesan Bishop, as a successor of the Apostles, in communion with
the Bishop of Rome, to exercise leadership in regard to the celebration
of the Eucharist. Further, that the Australian Conference of Catholic
Bishops have the right and duty to ensure that Eucharist is celebrated
according to the tradition of the Catholic Church and in a way that
engages participants in the Mystery of Christ, commissions them to build
the Kingdom of God in the world, and resonate with Australian life and
2. Many communities in Australia already experience a certain communion
in their day-to-day lives, but vast distances, and/or special cultural
or life-style factors, combined with decreasing numbers of Priests mean
that THEIR OPPORTUNITY TO CELEBRATE EUCHARIST REGULARLY and “BRING
THEIR COMMUNION TO PERFECTION” is drastically limited. We ask
that earnest and serious consideration be given at the Synod of Bishops
to extending the possibility of ordination to single men of good character
(viri probati) who would preside at the Eucharist within their own community.
It is important that the Synod speak eloquently and profoundly about
the Mystery of the Eucharist: it is equally important to take decisive
action so that the opportunity to celebrate is reasonably available.
3. Across the world there are many hundreds if not thousands of Catholic
Priests ordained and ministering within the Roman Rite who are married
and continue to live out their marriages. Most of them are men who were
previously ordained as ministers in other Christian traditions and who
made decisions to become Catholics. With full approval of our Church,
and following upon courses of formation and study agreed on by the ordaining
Bishop, these men have been ordained and appointed to pastoral ministry.
We welcome these brothers in Christ and their families. We ask also
that the Synod earnestly and seriously consider extending this opportunity
to other married men, men who fulfill all the qualifications St Paul
lists in his instruction to Titus.
4. We request that within this same context the Synod Fathers examine
honestly the appropriateness of insisting upon a priesthood that is,
with very few exceptions, obliged to be celibate. Priesthood is a gift,
celibacy is a gift : they are not the same gift.
5. Finally, we request that consideration be given to the re-instatement
of priests who have continued to be loyal members of the Church, have
married with the Church’s permission and are willing to resume
ministry as Priests.
These reflections are offered by the Executive of the National Council
of Priests of Australia as indications of the thinking of many Australian
Hal Ranger – Chairman
National Council of Priests