Eucharist Encyclical Misses Mark
Half of World’s Parishes Have No Priest to Celebrate
While the Pope writes beautiful statements about what the Eucharist means, most Catholics in the world have no access to it. The Pope’s Holy Thursday encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia says, that the Church truly “draws her life from the Eucharist,” but pays scant attention to the severe shortage of priests which puts much of the world in Eucharistic famine. Recent statistics from the Vatican show that nearly half, (105, 530 of 218,196) of the world’s parishes do not have a resident priest. The 2001 Vatican yearbook also reported that the world’s Catholics increased by 15 million to 1.06 billion worldwide but the number of priests declined by 111 to only 404, 956. By contrast, the number of lay people people involved in
pastoral care rose from 3.6 million catechists, nuns and deacons in 2000, to 3.9 million in 2001. Many of these would willingly serve as priests if the Vatican would change ordination rules.
“We need to make our leaders understand that the Mass is more important than mandatory celibacy,” said FutureChurch cofounder, Fr. Louis J. Trivison in a FutureChurch press release. Quoting Catholic canon law and the second Vatican Council Trivison noted: “We have the right to receive in abundance...the spiritual goods of the Church, and it is our right and duty to make our views known on matters which concern the good of the Church. It is very difficult to listen to Vatican statements, especially encyclicals, that are so far removed from the daily struggle of priests, pastoral ministers and bishops to provide even the minimum sacramental care that Catholics need and deserve.”
The encyclical also forbade intercommunion and reception of the Eucharist by divorced people who have remarried without an annulment. Part of this edict the Pope himself apparently disobeyed in February when, according to the British Catholic Weekly, The Tablet, he privately gave Anglican Prime Minister Tony Blair Communion in the papal chapel.
In related events, an April Der Spiegel article published a survey of 1000 Germans showing 86% of Protestants and 88% of Catholics desire intercommunion. This prompted speculation that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is more and more isolated in the country of the Reformation.
Laity in both churches are preparing for huge rallies in Berlin from May 28-June 1 which organizers expect to attract 150,000 people. The groups plan ecumenical liturgies and will invite each other to communion. German sources believe that the issue is rapidly becoming a public debate matter with major media taking part. The Catholic hierarchy have warned that any Catholic priest participating in such a celebration will be immediately suspended from the priesthood. This led some to wonder why suspension for intercommunion would be viewed as seriously as suspension for childhood sexual abuse.
In the meantime, Catholics who want to educate and advocate in behalf of preserving the Eucharist are encouraged to sponsor a prayer service and program on the feast of Corpus Christi. Last year, FutureChurch helped organize 34 such events around the U.S.