Signs of the Times

Proposed Vatican Document on Liturgy Returned to Committee

A proposed Vatican document on liturgical norms was sent back to its drafting committee after cardinals and bishops raised objections and encouraged changes. Among other things, the draft, presented to consulting prelates in June, reportedly discouraged the distribution of Communion under the forms of both bread and wine and said altar girls were permissible only for a good reason. The Rome-based magazine Jesus, a publication of the Pauline Fathers, reported on Sept. 22 that it had obtained a copy of the June draft.

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, said the draft was discussed by members of the doctrinal congregation and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in June.


Many observations were made, both negative and positive, he told Catholic News Service on Sept. 24. The document which will be released eventually will not be the same document I saw, he said, because it was sent back for revision. I have not seen a new draft, so I cannot say what will be in it, the cardinal said.

Another prelate who received the draft but could not participate in the June meeting said members of the two congregations were asked not only for observations about specific points in the draft, but also whether they believed it was opportune to publish the document. The prelate, who asked not to be named, said it was his understanding that the document was being rewritten. A Vatican official, who also asked not to be named, said it is normal for a document to be returned to its drafting committee for revision prior to publication.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical on the Eucharist published in April, said he had asked the congregations to prepare a document, including prescriptions of a juridical nature, on the obligation to follow church rules for the celebration of Mass and adoration of the Eucharist.

According to Jesus magazine, the draft released in June emphasized the importance of maintaining the distinctions among the roles of the priest, deacon and laity at Mass, reaffirming the Vatican’s ban on anyone but the priest or deacon giving the homily.

The magazine did not give any more details on distribution of Communion under both species, but said the document also:

Specifically discourages lay pastoral assistants in a parish from assuming liturgical roles during the Mass;

Recognizes a bishop’s authority to permit girls and women to serve at the altar, but never without a just pastoral reason, and priests must never be obliged to call girls to this role;

Reminds Catholics that the minister of the Eucharist and the only celebrant of the Mass is the priest. Lay people who help distribute Communion when necessary are to be called extraordinary ministers of Communion and not extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist;

Says that the Mass is not a concelebration of the presiding priest and the congregation; therefore the expressions celebrating community or celebrating assembly should be avoided.

The magazine said the draft document also states that:

Applause and dance inside a sacred building, even outside of the eucharistic celebration are not allowed. The rule could mean a change in liturgies at which Pope John Paul is present; he is commonly greeted with applause and, with congregations from certain parts of the world, dance has been permitted, particularly during the offertory procession;

Every Catholic has a right to report liturgical abuses or raise questions about liturgical practice with his or her bishop. Those who complain about liturgical abuses are to be treated with respect;

Under most circumstances non-Catholics are not allowed to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass. Ministers from other Christian communities should not stand next to Catholic celebrants during a Mass, and they should not be asked to give a blessing to the Catholic congregation;

Where the central gates in an altar railing have been removed, they should be restored, and their inclusion should be considered for churches under construction.

Ailing Pope Misses General Audience

Pope John Paul II, suffering from an intestinal disturbance, did not return to the Vatican on Sept. 24 for his weekly general audience. But by means of an audio connection from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, the pope offered visitors and pilgrims in the Vatican’s audience hall his blessing. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, presided over the audience.

The pope’s health has been the subject of widespread concern, especially since his trip on Sept. 11-14 to Slovakia, where he struggled to read even part of his speeches. While the pope’s voice was a bit shaky over the audio link, however, it was not noticeably worse than at the audience the week before.

Early on the day of the audience, the Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, said, On the advice of his personal physician, the Holy Father, after an intestinal indisposition which began yesterday afternoon, will not hold today’s general audience. Later Navarro-Valls told Italian television the pope’s health problem was not of a serious nature, but his doctor convinced him not to go to the audience. He said the pope’s calendar for the coming weeks has not been modified.

A Vatican official said the pope was not confined to his bed, a fact confirmed by a Vatican television camera, which filmedand later broadcastthe pope giving his blessing from his summer residence. The pope looked tired and very pale.

For the first time at a general audience, a Vatican cardinal took the pope’s place, reading the papal text, shaking the hands of visitors afterward and blessing newlywed couples. While the pope has delegated cardinals to celebrate Mass for him in the past when he was ill, normally the audiences are canceled if the pope is out of town or cannot attend.

Iraqi Bishop Says Media Distorts Coverage to Discredit War

An Iraqi Catholic bishop has accused Western media of lying about the postwar state of his country. Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna of Baghdad said he believed media were running a propaganda campaign to discredit the American-led coalition that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and now runs Iraq. Bishop Abouna, a Chaldean Catholic, told The Catholic Herald in London that the situation in Iraq was steadily improving, not descending into a morass resembling the Vietnam War, as often depicted by media outlets. It’s getting better but still there are many problems, Bishop Abouna said. The first problem is that they need security, then they need water and electricityand all these things are getting better, the bishop said. The media are exaggerating a lot of things. They should be realistic about the situation in Iraq. Newspapers and television are saying a lot of things that aren’t true. When they go there they can see everything [is changing], he said.

Palestinian Christians Rally in Support of Threatened Arafat

As Israeli threats ranging from possible exile to assassination against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat continued, the Palestinian Christian community rallied in support of the leader they described as a loving father and grandfather to them. Throughout the years, President Arafat has been good to the Palestinian Christians, the Laity Committee in the Holy Land said in a statement released in mid-September. He has always expressed genuine concern about the plight of Christian Palestinians as part of the plight of the Palestinian people. Committee members charged Israel with a desperate attempt to destroy any hope for peace and trying to silence the only Palestinian leader capable and willing to make peace. On Sept. 14 a large delegation of local Christians from the five churches in Ramallah, West Bank, went to Arafats headquarters to express their support, said Father Ibrahim Hijazin, a priest at Holy Family Catholic Parish.

News Briefs

Representative James McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, praised Catholic priests and nuns on Sept. 23 for raising public awareness of evidence that Latin American military graduates of a U.S. training center formerly known as the School of the Americas have been involved in human rights violations. He said continued pressure by religious organizations and individuals is needed to get congressional action to shut down the program.

Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, the primate of all Ireland, condemned the intimidation of Catholics who are working on district policing partnerships in Northern Ireland. He condemned the sinister attempts by a paramilitary group to rid policing partnerships of Catholic representation.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have urged the British government to back a U.N. resolution calling for a total ban on the cloning of humans.

After the International Atomic Energy Agency demanded that Iran open its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors, a Vatican representative said impartial, international inspections were crucial to detecting clandestine nuclear weapons programs.

The Senate’s 93-to-0 vote on Sept. 17 to send the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act to conference committee moves us one step closer to ending the brutal partial-birth abortion procedure, the U.S. bishops’ pro-life spokeswoman said. Cathleen Cleaver, director of planning and information for the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said she hoped the conference committee would approve a clean and straightforward ban without a Senate-passed provision in support of Roe v. Wade.

The School of Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., has changed its name to reflect a new organizational structure. The new School of Theology and Religious Studies is organized into seven academic areasbiblical studies, church history, liturgical studies/sacramental theology, moral theology/ethics, pastoral studies, religion and culture, and systematic and historical theologyinstead of the previous four departments.

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