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Eucharist as an Answer for Mankind

Interview With Cardinal Josef Tomko

ROME, OCT. 5, 2004 (Zenit) - The Catholic Church is about to begin a year of reflection and deeper awareness of the Eucharist, "mystery of the faith."

The Year of the Eucharist, convoked by John Paul II, will begin next Sunday with the International Eucharistic Congress, in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Year will close in October 2005 with a Synod of Bishops.

For a perspective on these initiatives, we interviewed Cardinal Josef Tomko, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

Q: What is the meaning of the events organized for the Year of the Eucharist?

Cardinal Tomko: The Eucharist is the main theme of the three events and mobilizes the entire Catholic Church for a year around the "mystery of the faith," which is the Eucharist.

It is one of the fundamental truths of the faith and the Church. So true it is that the Second Vatican Council defined the Eucharist as "source and summit of the whole of Christian life" and also "source and summit of all evangelization."

The meaning and purpose of the three unitary initiatives is more profound understanding and reinforcement of faith in God incarnate in Jesus Christ. Only someone who believes in the divinity of Christ can believe in the Eucharist. Whoever reinforces their faith in the Eucharist -- presence, sacrifice, and memorial of Jesus Christ -- deepens their faith in the divinity of Christ and his incarnation.

Therefore, the Eucharist is the central focus of the faith, a perspective that certain areas of the West, which find themselves under the pressure of a "silent apostasy," are in special need.

Moreover, since its origin, the Eucharist also has a social aspect, which in the early Church was manifested in the forms of agape and the sharing of goods, but it is present in various forms also today, because the Eucharist creates fraternity, solidarity, communion, an atmosphere of peace, reconciliation, justice and love.

The developed world is suffering from a marked decadence, a demographic winter, an anti-life culture, eugenic temptations and secularization.

Q: How can reflection on the Eucharist give answers to the needs of humanity and counteract the widespread nihilism?

Cardinal Tomko: Before speaking of the negative aspects of some "civilizations," which are not very civil in many aspects, I wish to point out some positive contributions related to the Eucharist, especially in young Churches. The joyful African celebrations are, in fact, also rich events of fraternity and solidarity that unite tribes and ethnic groups.

Moreover, they are not lacking in depth of perception of the Eucharist as sacrifice, given that they have ritual sacrifice. The Eucharistic liturgy is also the place of enculturation, as for example the Indian rite of "arathi" after the consecration, the sacred dances of adoration, etc.

In regard to the decadence of certain "cultures" or even "civilizations" -- especially in the area of the fundamental values of human life and love -- suffice it to recall that the Eucharist is the "bread of life" and gift of Jesus Christ "for the life of the world," source in which human love is purified and elevated.

The Man-God is adored in the Eucharist, but at the same time the sense of man's dignity and fraternity is enhanced. And what can we say about the great dignity and joy with which so many poor people approach the Eucharist, where divisions of class, race and wealth disappear?

This is also witnessed in International Congresses, where local families offer hospitality to the participants who come from other countries or continents. In such Eucharistic celebrations a new humanity and a new civilization -- that of love -- grows visibly.

A certain secularized, politically correct culture has weakened the practice of the sacraments, especially in regard to confession before receiving the Eucharist. Although it is true that when confessionals are open, people queue to go to confession, it is true that the practice of self-absolution is widespread.

Q: What is your opinion about this?

Cardinal Tomko: Today also St. Paul's severe warning is certainly valid: "Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" [1 Corinthians 11:27-29].

And the Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies: "Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion." ...

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