Sacramentum carit. EN 16


I. The Eucharist and Christian initiation

The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation


17 If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, it follows that the process of Christian initiation must constantly be directed to the reception of this sacrament. As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized. (46) It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation. The sacrament of Baptism, by which we were conformed to Christ,(47) incorporated in the Church and made children of God, is the portal to all the sacraments. It makes us part of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 12,13), a priestly people. Still, it is our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice which perfects within us the gifts given to us at Baptism. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the building up of Christ's Body (1Co 12) and for ever greater witness to the Gospel in the world. (48) The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the centre and goal of all sacramental life. (49)

(46) Cf. Propositio 13.
(47) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, LG 7.
(48) Cf. ibid., 11; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad Gentes, AGD 9 AGD 13.
(49) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 7: AAS 72 (1980), 124-127; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, PO 5.


The order of the sacraments of initiation


18 In this regard, attention needs to be paid to the order of the sacraments of initiation. Different traditions exist within the Church. There is a clear variation between, on the one hand, the ecclesial customs of the East (50) and the practice of the West regarding the initiation of adults, (51) and, on the other hand, the procedure adopted for children. (52) Yet these variations are not properly of the dogmatic order, but are pastoral in character. Concretely, it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation. In close collaboration with the competent offices of the Roman Curia, Bishops' Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation, so that the faithful can be helped both to mature through the formation received in our communities and to give their lives an authentically eucharistic direction, so that they can offer a reason for the hope within them in a way suited to our times (cf. 1P 3,15).

(50) Cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. CIO 710.
(51) Cf. Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults, General Introduction, 34-36.
(52) Cf. Rite of Baptism for Children, Introduction, 18-19.


Initiation, the ecclesial community and the family


19 It should be kept in mind that the whole of Christian initiation is a process of conversion undertaken with God's help and with constant reference to the ecclesial community, both when an adult is seeking entry into the Church, as happens in places of first evangelization and in many secularized regions, and when parents request the sacraments for their children. In this regard, I would like to call particular attention to the relationship between Christian initiation and the family. In pastoral work it is always important to make Christian families part of the process of initiation. Receiving Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion are key moments not only for the individual receiving them but also for the entire family, which should be supported in its educational role by the various elements of the ecclesial community. (53) Here I would emphasize the importance of First Holy Communion. For many of the faithful, this day continues to be memorable as the moment when, even if in a rudimentary way, they first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus. Parish pastoral programmes should make the most of this highly significant moment.

(53) Cf. Propositio 15.


II. The Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Their intrinsic relationship


20 The Synod Fathers rightly stated that a love for the Eucharist leads to a growing appreciation of the sacrament of Reconciliation. (54) Given the connection between these sacraments, an authentic catechesis on the meaning of the Eucharist must include the call to pursue the path of penance (cf. 1Co 11,27-29). We know that the faithful are surrounded by a culture that tends to eliminate the sense of sin (55) and to promote a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental communion worthily. (56) The loss of a consciousness of sin always entails a certain superficiality in the understanding of God's love. Bringing out the elements within the rite of Mass that express consciousness of personal sin and, at the same time, of God's mercy, can prove most helpful to the faithful.(57) Furthermore, the relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation reminds us that sin is never a purely individual affair; it always damages the ecclesial communion that we have entered through Baptism. For this reason, Reconciliation, as the Fathers of the Church would say, is laboriosus quidam baptismus; (58) they thus emphasized that the outcome of the process of conversion is also the restoration of full ecclesial communion, expressed in a return to the Eucharist. (59)

(54) Cf. Propositio 7; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), EE 36: AAS 95 (2003), 457-458.
(55) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), RP 18: AAS 77 (1985), 224-228.
(56) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1385.
(57) For example, the Confiteor, or the words of the priest and people before receiving Communion: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." Not insignificantly does the liturgy also prescribe certain very beautiful prayers for the priest, handed down by tradition, which speak of the need for forgiveness, as, for example, the one recited quietly before inviting the faithful to sacramental communion: "By the mystery of your body and blood, free me from all my sins and from every evil. Keep me always faithful to your teachings and never let me be parted from you."
(58) Cf. Saint John Damascene, Exposition of the Faith, IV, 9: PG 94, 1124C; Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Oratio 39, 17: PG 36, 356A; Ecumenical Council of Trent, Doctrina de sacramento paenitentiae, Chapter 2: DS 1672.
(59) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, LG 11; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), RP 30: AAS 77 (1985), 256-257.


Some pastoral concerns


21 The Synod recalled that Bishops have the pastoral duty of promoting within their Dioceses a reinvigorated catechesis on the conversion born of the Eucharist, and of encouraging frequent confession among the faithful. All priests should dedicate themselves with generosity, commitment and competency to administering the sacrament of Reconciliation. (60) In this regard, it is important that the confessionals in our churches should be clearly visible expressions of the importance of this sacrament. I ask pastors to be vigilant with regard to the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and to limit the practice of general absolution exclusively to the cases permitted, (61) since individual absolution is the only form intended for ordinary use. (62) Given the need to rediscover sacramental forgiveness, there ought to be a Penitentiary in every Diocese. (63) Finally, a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead, can be helpful for a renewed appreciation of the relationship between the Eucharist and Reconciliation. By this means the faithful obtain "remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven." (64) The use of indulgences helps us to understand that by our efforts alone we would be incapable of making reparation for the wrong we have done, and that the sins of each individual harm the whole community. Furthermore, the practice of indulgences, which involves not only the doctrine of Christ's infinite merits, but also that of the communion of the saints, reminds us "how closely we are united to each other in Christ ... and how the supernatural life of each can help others." (65) Since the conditions for gaining an indulgence include going to confession and receiving sacramental communion, this practice can effectively sustain the faithful on their journey of conversion and in rediscovering the centrality of the Eucharist in the Christian life.

(60) Cf. Propositio 7.
(61) Cf. John Paul II, Motu Proprio Misericordia Dei (7 April 2002): AAS 94 (2002), 452-459.
(62) Together with the Synod Fathers I wish to note that the non-sacramental penitential services mentioned in the ritual of the sacrament of Reconciliation can be helpful for increasing the spirit of conversion and of communion in Christian communities, thereby preparing hearts for the celebration of the sacrament: cf. Propositio 7.
(63) Cf. Code of Canon Law, can.
CIC 508.
(64) Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (1 January 1967), Norms 1: AAS 59 (1967), 21.
(65) Ibid 9: AAS 59 (1967), 18-19.



III. The Eucharist and the Anointing of the sick


22 Jesus did not only send his disciples forth to heal the sick (cf. Mt 10,8 Lc 9,2); he also instituted a specific sacrament for them: the Anointing of the Sick.(66) The Letter of James attests to the presence of this sacramental sign in the early Christian community (cf. Jc 5,14-16). If the Eucharist shows how Christ's sufferings and death have been transformed into love, the Anointing of the Sick, for its part, unites the sick with Christ's self-offering for the salvation of all, so that they too, within the mystery of the communion of saints, can participate in the redemption of the world. The relationship between these two sacraments becomes clear in situations of serious illness: "In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum." (67) On their journey to the Father, communion in the Body and Blood of Christ appears as the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection: "Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn 6,54). Since viaticum gives the sick a glimpse of the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, its administration should be readily provided for. (68) Attentive pastoral care shown to those who are ill brings great spiritual benefit to the entire community, since whatever we do to one of the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus himself (cf. Mt 25,40).

(66) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1499-1532.
(67) Ibid., CEC 1524.
(68) Cf. Propositio 44.



IV. The Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders

In persona Christi capitis


23 The intrinsic relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders clearly emerges from Jesus' own words in the Upper Room: "Do this in memory of me" (Lc 22,19). On the night before he died, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and at the same time established the priesthood of the New Covenant. He is priest, victim and altar: the mediator between God the Father and his people (cf. He 5,5-10), the victim of atonement (cf. 1Jn 2,2) who offers himself on the altar of the Cross. No one can say "this is my body" and "this is the cup of my blood" except in the name and in the person of Christ, the one high priest of the new and eternal Covenant (cf. He 8-9). Earlier meetings of the Synod of Bishops had considered the question of the ordained priesthood, both with regard to the nature of the ministry (69) and the formation of candidates.(70) Here, in the light of the discussion that took place during the last Synod, I consider it important to recall several important points about the relationship between the sacrament of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. First of all, we need to stress once again that the connection between Holy Orders and the Eucharist is seen most clearly at Mass, when the Bishop or priest presides in the person of Christ the Head.

The Church teaches that priestly ordination is the indispensable condition for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.(71) Indeed, "in the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, High Priest of the redemptive sacrifice." (72) Certainly the ordained minister also acts "in the name of the whole Church, when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the eucharistic sacrifice." (73) As a result, priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord's hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality. I encourage the clergy always to see their eucharistic ministry as a humble service offered to Christ and his Church. The priesthood, as Saint Augustine said, is amoris officium, (74) it is the office of the good shepherd, who offers his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10,14-15).

(69) Cf. Synod of Bishops, Second General Assembly, Document on the Ministerial Priesthood Ultimis Temporibus (30 November 1971): AAS 63 (1971), 898-942.
(70) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), PDV 42-69: AAS 84 (1992), 729-778.
(71) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, LG 10; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on Certain Questions Concerning the Minister of the Eucharist Sacerdotium Ministeriale (6 August 1983): AAS 75 (1983), 1001-1009.
(72) Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1548.
(73) Ibid., CEC 1552.
(74) Cf. In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, 123, 5: PL 35, 1967.


The Eucharist and priestly celibacy


24 The Synod Fathers wished to emphasize that the ministerial priesthood, through ordination, calls for complete configuration to Christ. While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches, there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate. These Churches also greatly esteem the decision of many priests to embrace celibacy. This choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God. (75) The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the Cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church. It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride. In continuity with the great ecclesial tradition, with the Second Vatican Council (76) and with my predecessors in the papacy, (77) I reaffirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition. Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself.

(75) Cf. Propositio 11.
(76) Cf. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis,
PO 16.
(77) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia (1 August 1959): AAS 51 (1959), 545-579; Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Sacerdotalis Coelibatus (24 June 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 657-697; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), PDV 29: AAS 84 (1992), 703-705; Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2006): L'Osservatore Romano, 23 December 2006, p. 6.


The clergy shortage and the pastoral care of vocations


25 In the light of the connection between the sacrament of Holy Orders and the Eucharist, the Synod considered the difficult situation that has arisen in various Dioceses which face a shortage of priests. This happens not only in some areas of first evangelization, but also in many countries of long-standing Christian tradition. Certainly a more equitable distribution of clergy would help to solve the problem. Efforts need to be made to encourage a greater awareness of this situation at every level. Bishops should involve Institutes of Consecrated Life and the new ecclesial groups in their pastoral needs, while respecting their particular charisms, and they should invite the clergy to become more open to serving the Church wherever there is need, even if this calls for sacrifice. (78) The Synod also discussed pastoral initiatives aimed at promoting, especially among the young, an attitude of interior openness to a priestly calling. The situation cannot be resolved by purely practical decisions. On no account should Bishops react to real and understandable concerns about the shortage of priests by failing to carry out adequate vocational discernment, or by admitting to seminary formation and ordination candidates who lack the necessary qualities for priestly ministry (79). An insufficiently formed clergy, admitted to ordination without the necessary discernment, will not easily be able to offer a witness capable of evoking in others the desire to respond generously to Christ's call. The pastoral care of vocations needs to involve the entire Christian community in every area of its life. (80) Obviously, this pastoral work on all levels also includes exploring the matter with families, which are often indifferent or even opposed to the idea of a priestly vocation. Families should generously embrace the gift of life and bring up their children to be open to doing God's will. In a word, they must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is.

(78) Cf. Propositio 11.
(79) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Priestly Formation Optatam Totius,
OT 6; Code of Canon Law, can. CIC 241, 1 and can. CIC 1029; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. CIO 342 1 and can. CIO 758; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), PDV 11 PDV 34 PDV 50: AAS 84 (1992), 673-675; 712-714; 746-748; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests (31 March 1994), 58; Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders (4 November 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 1007-1013.
(80) Cf. Propositio 12; John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), PDV 41: AAS 84 (1992), 726-729.


Gratitude and hope


26 Finally, we need to have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence. Even if there is a shortage of priests in some areas, we must never lose confidence that Christ continues to inspire men to leave everything behind and to dedicate themselves totally to celebrating the sacred mysteries, preaching the Gospel and ministering to the flock. In this regard, I wish to express the gratitude of the whole Church for all those Bishops and priests who carry out their respective missions with fidelity, devotion and zeal. Naturally, the Church's gratitude also goes to deacons, who receive the laying on of hands "not for priesthood but for service." (81) As the Synod Assembly recommended, I offer a special word of thanks to those Fidei Donum priests who work faithfully and generously at building up the community by proclaiming the word of God and breaking the Bread of Life, devoting all their energy to serving the mission of the Church. (82) Let us thank God for all those priests who have suffered even to the sacrifice of their lives in order to serve Christ. The eloquence of their example shows what it means to be a priest to the end. Theirs is a moving witness that can inspire many young people to follow Christ and to expend their lives for others, and thus to discover true life.

(81) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,
LG 29.
(82) Cf. Propositio 38.


V. The Eucharist and Matrimony

The Eucharist, a nuptial sacrament


27 The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time. (83) Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: "The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride." (84) Moreover, "the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist." (85) The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Ep 5,31-32). The mutual consent that husband and wife exchange in Christ, which establishes them as a community of life and love, also has a eucharistic dimension. Indeed, in the theology of Saint Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ's love for his Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of his "marriage" with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist. For this reason the Church manifests her particular spiritual closeness to all those who have built their family on the sacrament of Matrimony. (86) The family the domestic Church (87) is a primary sphere of the Church's life, especially because of its decisive role in the Christian education of children. (88) In this context, the Synod also called for an acknowledgment of the unique mission of women in the family and in society, a mission that needs to be defended, protected and promoted. (89) Marriage and motherhood represent essential realities which must never be denigrated.

(83) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), FC 57: AAS 74 (1982), 149-150.
(84) Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988), MD 26: AAS 80 (1988), 1715-1716.
(85) Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1617.
(86) Cf. Propositio 8.
(87) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, LG 11.
(88) Cf. Propositio 8.
(89) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988): AAS 80 (1988), 1653-1729; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World (31 May 2004): AAS 96 (2004), 671-687.


The Eucharist and the unicity of marriage


28 In the light of this intrinsic relationship between marriage, the family and the Eucharist, we can turn to several pastoral problems. The indissoluble, exclusive and faithful bond uniting Christ and the Church, which finds sacramental expression in the Eucharist, corresponds to the basic anthropological fact that man is meant to be definitively united to one woman and vice versa (cf. Gn 2,24, Mt 19,5). With this in mind, the Synod of Bishops addressed the question of pastoral practice regarding people who come to the Gospel from cultures in which polygamy is practised. Those living in this situation who open themselves to Christian faith need to be helped to integrate their life-plan into the radical newness of Christ. During the catechumenate, Christ encounters them in their specific circumstances and calls them to embrace the full truth of love, making whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to arrive at perfect ecclesial communion. The Church accompanies them with a pastoral care that is gentle yet firm, (90) above all by showing them the light shed by the Christian mysteries on nature and on human affections.

(90) Cf. Propositio 9.


The Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage


29 If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God's love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires. (91) There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church's pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved.(92) The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk Mc 10,2-12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.

When legitimate doubts exist about the validity of the prior sacramental marriage, the necessary investigation must be carried out to establish if these are well-founded. Consequently there is a need to ensure, in full respect for canon law (93), the presence of local ecclesiastical tribunals, their pastoral character, and their correct and prompt functioning (94). Each Diocese should have a sufficient number of persons with the necessary preparation, so that the ecclesiastical tribunals can operate in an expeditious manner. I repeat that "it is a grave obligation to bring the Church's institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful" (95). At the same time, pastoral care must not be understood as if it were somehow in conflict with the law. Rather, one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but "a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful" (96). Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God's law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, taking care to observe the Church's established and approved practice in this regard. This path, if it is to be possible and fruitful, must be supported by pastors and by adequate ecclesial initiatives, nor can it ever involve the blessing of these relations, lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage (97).

Given the complex cultural context which the Church today encounters in many countries, the Synod also recommended devoting maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the sacrament of Matrimony. Serious discernment in this matter will help to avoid situations where impulsive decisions or superficial reasons lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they are then incapable of honouring. (98) The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.

(91) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1640.
(92) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), FC 84: AAS 74 (1982), 184- 186; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful Annus Internationalis Familiae (14 September 1994): AAS 86 (1994), 974-979.
(93) Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Instruction on the Norms to be Observed at Ecclesiastical Tribunals in Matrimonial Proceedings Dignitas Connubii (25 January 2005), Vatican City, 2005.
(94) Cf. Propositio 40.
(95) Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for the Inauguration of the Judicial Year (28 January 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 138.
(96) Cf. Propositio 40.
(97) Cf. ibid.
(98) Cf. ibid.


The Eucharist and Eschatology

The Eucharist: a gift to men and women on their journey


30 If it is true that the sacraments are part of the Church's pilgrimage through history (99) towards the full manifestation of the victory of the risen Christ, it is also true that, especially in the liturgy of the Eucharist, they give us a real foretaste of the eschatological fulfilment for which every human being and all creation are destined (cf. Rm 8,19ff.). Man is created for that true and eternal happiness which only God's love can give. But our wounded freedom would go astray were it not already able to experience something of that future fulfilment. Moreover, to move forward in the right direction, we all need to be guided towards our final goal. That goal is Christ himself, the Lord who conquered sin and death, and who makes himself present to us in a special way in the eucharistic celebration. Even though we remain "aliens and exiles" in this world (1P 2,11), through faith we already share in the fullness of risen life. The eucharistic banquet, by disclosing its powerful eschatological dimension, comes to the aid of our freedom as we continue our journey.


Sacramentum carit. EN 16