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 CNS Story:

SYNOD-SERVICES Oct-13-2008 (510 words) xxxi

Bishops tell how Sunday liturgy centers on Bible for many Catholics

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For millions of Catholics around the world, the Sunday liturgy is a service revolving totally around reading the Bible because there are not enough priests to celebrate the Eucharist each week.

During the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, church leaders from Latin America, Africa and Asia praised the work of the catechists or "delegates of the word" who lead the Sunday services and called for better training for them.

Bishop Guido Plante of Choluteca, Honduras, said that since the first 17 lay "delegates of the word of God" were sent out in 1966 to lead Holy Week celebrations in isolated villages of Honduras more than 10,000 laypeople have been trained and sent out in Honduras and neighboring countries.

They are not just Bible readers, they do not just work on Sundays and most of them do not get paid for their ministry, said Bishop Plante, a Canadian-born missionary.

"They are real promoters of Christian communities," he told the synod Oct. 11.

Gathered around the word of God, the bishop said, people have formed youth groups, women's groups, trained catechists and discovered how relevant the Gospel is to their lives and their thirst for justice.

Their love for the word of God leads them "to promote human rights and to help the victims of poverty, corruption and violence," he said.

Bishop Plante said he knows some people worry that Catholics will be content with Sunday liturgies of the word and not recognize how important the Eucharist is to Catholic life.

But that has not been the case in Honduras, he said. The word of God has increased a hunger for the Eucharist and has become a source of priestly vocations.

"In my Diocese of Choluteca, for example, all the young Honduran priests have been delegates of the word," he said.

The president of the Zambia Episcopal Conference, Bishop George Zumaire Lungu of Chipata, also spoke Oct. 11 about the widespread practice of Sunday celebrations of the word of God without the Eucharist.

"This is what is prevailing in most of our dioceses in Zambia. Parishes are so vast that in many places it takes at least three months" for a priest to get to each of the small Christian communities for a celebration of the Eucharist, he said.

"For our people, the normal Sunday encounter with the Lord is only through the proclaimed word," he said, which is a shame since "the proclaimed word falls short of its normal fulfillment in the Eucharist, which is the only complete celebration of the mystery of God's love for humanity."

Bishop Lungu asked the synod to encourage dioceses with a good number of priests to share with those who are experiencing severe shortages.

While the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in 1989 published guidelines for Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest, Bishop Lungu said it probably is time for the Vatican to develop a formal ritual for such services.


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