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SYNOD-CHANGE Oct-4-2005 (540 words) xxxi

Movements appeal for changes to make Eucharist more accessible

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- International and U.S. Catholic movements pushing for changes in the church appealed to the world's bishops to discuss issues such as married priests and inter-Communion that would make the Eucharist more accessible to the Christian faithful.

Representatives from the international We Are Church movement and the U.S. national coalition of FutureChurch were in Rome for a press briefing Oct. 4 about their lobbying efforts before and during the Oct. 2-23 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.

The synod fathers have to consider "the effect on the Catholic community as a eucharistic people if we do not do something about the priest shortage," said Sister Christine Schenk, a Sister of St. Joseph and founder of FutureChurch.

If there are not enough priests to minister to the growing numbers of Catholics in the world "we will not continue to be a eucharistic people, and we will not be able to continue to be made by the Eucharist," she told Catholic News Service.

In a survey sent to more than 15,000 priests in 55 U.S. dioceses, FutureChurch and a partner group, Call to Action, said 67 percent of priests who responded agreed mandatory celibacy should be discussed at the synod.

The two U.S. groups said they also collected more than 35,000 signatures on a nationwide petition asking the synod to consider optional celibacy and female deacons as possible solutions to the priest shortage.

Sister Schenk said that, according to Vatican statistics, "the number of Catholics worldwide increased by 42 percent, but the number of priests decreased by 2 percent" over the past 24 years.

That has resulted in a situation where "half of the parishes and missions around the world do not have regular access to the Eucharist," she said.

"The people of God and their needs for the Eucharist must be (the synod fathers') first consideration" and be given precedence over other issues, such as celibacy, she said.

Sister Schenk also said the call to celibacy should be "discerned separately" from the call to ordination.

"I am a celibate nun and it's a spiritual path ... that is not going to die out; it will continue to flourish," she said.

"But some men are called to be priests who do not receive the celibate call, and it's unjust and unfair to force it upon them if they have not received that gift," she said.

Meanwhile, the international movement We Are Church said no longer excluding people of faith from receiving Communion was one way to show "the primacy of the Eucharist."

Divorced and or remarried people who have not had their marriages annulled should not be denied "eucharistic fellowship," and neither should members of other Christian communities, it said in a press statement.

"The contradictions of exclusions in the eucharistic assembly ... are less and less understood" by the lay faithful, it said.

The group said bishops, diocesan priests and lay people should "be kept free to make the Eucharist more shared and abounding."

Christ "has come to heal the sick, not the healthy" and he "calls all Christian people and churches to his table on only two conditions: our awareness of being sinners and our wish to be faithful to his will," it said.


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