Request for Religious Freedom in Muslim Countries
H.E. Most. Rev. Berhaneyesus Demerew SOURAPHIEL, C.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Abeba, President of the Episcopal Conference, President of the Ethiopian Episcopal Conference (ETHIOPIA)
In some parts of the world, this is not possible: e.g. in Saudi Arabia or in some other Muslim countries. Sunday is a working day and the Eucharist is not celebrated because there are no Churches, nor priests, or there is simply no religious freedom.
From Eritrea and Ethiopia, there are many Christians who are working and living in Muslim countries. They are mostly Christians of the Ethiopian or Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Churches. They go there mostly to work as domestic workers, to take care of children or the elderly. I do not have the statistics of these Christians who go to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Gulf States, and other Muslim majority countries. They are in the hundreds of thousands. Only in Beirut, there are more than 20,000 Ethiopians working there. We are grateful for Caritas Lebanon for the help it gives to these Christians.
Before they go to the Muslim countries, they are forced to change their Christian names into Muslim ones and, especially, the women have to dress in Muslim attire. Once they reach their destinations, their passports are taken from them and they suffer all kinds of abuses and exploitations. Many are forced by the situation to become Muslims.
They are forced to go to these Muslim countries because of the poverty of their own countries, and because the doors of other Christian countries are closed to them. We know that many African Christians die crossing parts of the Sahara desert or get drowned in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to go to Christian countries in Europe and America.
It is poverty which is forcing them to give up their Christian heritage, their Christian culture, and even their human dignity.
They are denied their right of expressing their religion: the celebration of the Eucharist, and the Sunday Mass. It is one of the religious persecutions of the modem times.
I request the Synod Fathers, especially those working in Muslim countries where poor Christians go in search of employment, to extend their pastoral care to these Christians and to ask the Muslim governments to respect the religious freedom of the Christians.
An Alarming Drop in the Number of Catholics in Brazil
H. Em. Card. Cláudio HUMMES, O.F.M., Archbishop of São Paulo (BRAZIL)
According to the statistics of the Brazilian Government and the Church’s research in Brazil, the number of Brazilians who declare themselves Catholics has diminished rapidly, on an average of 1% a year. In 1991 Catholic Brazilians were nearly 83%, today and according to new studies, they are barely 67%. We wonder with anxiety: till when Brazil will be a Catholic country? In conformity with this situation, it has been found that in Brazil there are two Protestant pastors for each Catholic priest, and the majority from the Pentecostal churches.
Many indications show that the same is true for almost all of Latin America and here too we wonder: till when Latin America will be a Catholic continent?
The Church must pay more attention to this serious situation. The response of the Church in Brazil is, in the first place, the missions including the permanent home missionary visits. The parishes have to organize their faithful and to prepare them to be missionaries.
A missionary Church must also be deeply Eucharistic, for the Eucharist is the source of the mission. The Eucharist helps the disciple to grow, announcing the Word of God to him and bringing him to a personal and community meeting with Christ, through the celebration of the death and Resurrection of the Lord and through the sacramental communion with Him. The disciple, through this meeting realized in the Holy Spirit, is urged to announce also to others what he lived and experienced. Thus the disciple becomes a missionary. From the Eucharist, one goes on the mission.
Brazil and Latin America urgently need this missionary action nourished by the Eucharist.
- H. Em. Card. Walter KASPER, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (VATICAN CITY)
The theme “Eucharist and unity” goes back to what Saint Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians: “And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf” (1 Cor 10:17). This assertion “one loaf - one body” and “participation in the single chalice”, which means “communion in the single body”, modeled the entire tradition of the Church in the Orient and in the West. First of all, we find this first of all in Saint Augustine and once again in Saint Thomas Aquinas. For Thomas, the ‘res’, that is, the species and the goal of the Eucharist is not the real presence of Christ, which Thomas no doubt teaches, but for him the real presence is only ‘res et sacramentum’, that is, an intermediate reality. The ‘res’, the goal of the Eucharist is the unity of the Church.
This view was renewed in Vatican Council II, which rediscovered the Church as communion, through the common participation in the sole Baptism and the sole Eucharistic bread. On this point, we agree with the Oriental Churches; the Communities that go back to the Reform had the same concept at their origins, they have only recently abandoned this. Therefore, the Catholic concept of the intimate tie between Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion is not - as some would tend to believe - a vague anti-ecumenical concept, but an ecumenical concept per se.
However, because of this reason, the terminology, which unfortunately is found also in the Instrumentum laboris, and that speaks about “intercommunion”, is ambiguous and in itself contradictory. It should be avoided. Since this is not an “inter” communion, that is a “between” two communions (two Communities), rather a communion in the communion of the one body of Christ, which is the Church.
Devoloping a Spirituality of the Eucharist
- H.E. Most. Rev. Miguel Angel ALBA DÍAZ, Bishop of La Paz en la Baja California Sur (MEXICO)
To form ourselves in the Eucharist, for this reason, is to be formed in the experience of grace, in the contemplation of the marvels that God does. It is to feel ourselves as graced, to experience the gratuity of all we are and have.
It is to be formed to “give thanks always, in every place and in all the circumstances of life”, appreciating life with its sorrows and joys and discovering that “everything happens for the good of those the Lord loves”.
It is to be formed to make of our life a Eucharist, to love and serve God and humanity with grateful love, to ,make of our lives a living and permanent offering.
To form ourselves for the Eucharist is to be formed in order to give worship to the Father “in spirit and truth”. Perhaps seven years of seminary seem too many to learn to say Mass, but they are too few to learn to celebrate the Eucharist.
The Instrumentum Laboris gathers suggestions that denounce serious negative practices. They are not only transgressions of the rubrics, but the expression of attitudes that ignore or deform the sense of the reform of the Council.
If precipitation in applying the liturgical reform has lead us to lose our equilibrium, in looking again for this balance, before proposing new initiatives, we must promote a spirituality that allows for the overcoming of both a passive ritualization and an excessive creativity, so that the Mystery can speak through the Liturgy.