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SYNOD-PROPOSITIONS (UPDATED) Oct-18-2005 (1,220 words) xxxi

Synod proposes greater vocations efforts, no easing of celibacy rules

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a draft list of propositions, the Synod of Bishops recommended no relaxation of church rules on priestly celibacy and instead proposed greater vocations efforts as the answer to the shortage of priests.

The idea of ordaining married men in the Western church is "a road not to follow," said Proposition 11, one of 50 propositions presented to the synod Oct. 18. After possible amendments, the propositions were to be voted on later in the week.

Catholic News Service obtained a copy of the propositions, which were read in Latin on the synod floor.

The propositions contained proposals on several other topics of interest during the Oct. 2-23 synod on the Eucharist:

-- Proposition 40 said Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried without an annulment "cannot be admitted to holy Communion" because they are in clear contrast with church teaching on marriage. It encouraged other pastoral efforts toward such Catholics; it suggested that some margin of flexibility might be found in further study of church law on the conditions for annulments.

-- Proposition 46 said there is no "eucharistic coherence" when Catholic politicians promote laws that go against human good, justice and natural law. It indicated that in determining whether specific politicians should receive Communion bishops should "exercise the virtue of prudence."

-- Proposition 41 repeated church teaching that shared Communion with non-Catholic Christians "is generally not possible." An "ecumenical concelebration" of the Eucharist would be even more objectionable, it said. At the same time, it said exceptions that would allow for shared Communion when "precise conditions" are present should be respected.

-- Regarding Sunday Liturgies of the Word when no priest is present, Proposition 10 said it was up to bishops' conferences to set policies on distribution of Communion, but it asked the Vatican to consider preparing a new document spelling out universal rules on such liturgies.

The issue of ordaining married men of proven virtue, or "viri probati," was raised by several bishops in discussion of the shortage of priests that afflicts many parts of the world.

Proposition 11 said the lack of priests was a cause of "acute pain" and said the situation called for "effective pastoral initiatives."

But it added: "In this context, the synod fathers affirmed the importance of the inestimable gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the practice of the Latin Church." Catholic faithful, it said, need to better know the reasons behind the relationship between celibacy and ordination.

"Some participants made reference to 'viri probati,' but in the end the small discussion groups evaluated this hypothesis as a road not to follow," it said.

The propositions called for new efforts at fostering vocations. They said pastors should not be afraid to propose the priesthood as a radical way of following Christ. They encouraged prayers and eucharistic adoration celebrations for the intent of priestly vocations.

They also called for a more equitable distribution of priests and for a willingness among priests themselves to serve where they are most needed.

The synod's theme is the Eucharist, and the propositions distilled more than two weeks of discussion by more than 250 participants. The propositions, which are considered secret, will be given to Pope Benedict XVI for possible use in a future papal document.

Significantly placed near the top of the synod's recommendations was a strong endorsement of the Second Vatican Council. Proposition 2 said the changes introduced by Vatican II had greatly benefited the church. It said liturgical abuses had occurred in the past, but said they had diminished substantially in recent times.

Weighing in on the synod's debate over whether the Eucharist should be seen as a gift or a right, Proposition 4 said both elements came into play. It said the Eucharist is a gift from God, but it also said the Catholic faithful have a right to receive the sacraments and that pastors have a duty to "make every effort" to provide access to the Eucharist.

Proposition 35, however, said reception of Communion should never be seen as automatic. Non-Catholics attending Mass should be told "delicately but clearly" that their nonparticipation in Communion does not signify a lack of respect for them; Catholics should be reminded of the need to be in a state of grace before receiving Communion.

"No one should be afraid of causing a negative impression by not coming forward for Communion," it said.

Proposition 19 took up a point strongly made by more than one U.S. participant, on the need for vibrant, inspiring preachers. To favor homilies that correspond thematically to teachings of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" and other doctrinal sources, it proposed the preparation of a pastoral resource that connects Sunday readings with doctrinal themes.

Proposition 6 urged promotion of eucharistic adoration, which it called "a sign of the times," and encouraged pastors to keep local churches open to favor the practice. At the same time, it emphasized that eucharistic adoration springs from the Mass and should not be seen in isolation.

Proposition 30 said pastors need to reaffirm the importance of Sunday Mass. To promote respect for Sunday, it suggested that local churches also organize Sunday social gatherings, religious education encounters and pilgrimages.

Two propositions thanked the world's priests for their selfless service, often given with great sacrifice and personal risk.

Other propositions briefly treated several liturgical and sacramental issues:

-- Proposition 13 said the links among baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist are not adequately understood and that the right age for confirmation should be reconsidered. It asked whether, in the Western church, the sequence of baptism, confirmation and first Communion, which is used for adults, should not also be used for children, as is the practice in Eastern churches.

-- Proposition 23 questioned whether the sign of peace might be better placed elsewhere in the Mass, for example at the end of the prayer of the faithful. In any case, it said, priests should not leave the altar area during the sign of peace exchange.

-- Proposition 25 called for the preservation of the dignity and sacred character of liturgical celebrations, specifically warning against the introduction of nonliturgical texts. It asked the Vatican to prepare a practical instruction for priests on how to celebrate the Mass, to complement the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

-- Various other propositions called for the continued use of Latin in liturgies with international participants; asked for study of the practice of concelebrating huge Masses; highlighted the importance of genuflecting at important moments of the eucharistic prayer during Mass; said the church tabernacle should be placed in a place that is "noble, esteemed, well visible" and adapted to prayer.

The propositions made no mention of granting wider latitude for celebrating the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass, reflecting a general lack of discussion on the issue during synod assemblies.

One proposition, titled "The Eucharist and Polygamy," said the church's teaching on marriage requires that those entering the church break off polygamist relationships before receiving the sacraments. It said the church recognizes that this process may take time and requires a combination of "tenderness and firmness" on the part of pastors.

The propositions underlined the Eucharist's connection with social justice issues and even with ecological concerns. They said eucharistic celebrations can have prophetic power in places of conflict and war.


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