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Discussion Starters:

Pastoral Issues

around the Eucharist


A Travelogue from Tantur

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

Section 5

Section 6

Section 7

Section 8





Discussion Starters











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




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 and communities.

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.


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 world.
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 affirmed.


We make the following requests, asking that these issues be included in the “Instrumentum Laboris” and earnestly discussed at the Synod.

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 culture.

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 Catholic Priests.

Hal Ranger – Chairman
National Council of Priests


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