The bishops of Basel, Chur and Saint-Gall have published a letter calling for compliance with the liturgical rules regarding the competences attributed to priests alone: ”You all know that only the priest validly presides over the Eucharist, grants sacramental reconciliation and administers the anointing of the sick,” they say. A reminder that is part of a climate of concern after the concelebration of a committed laywoman. Responding to what had become “the Monika Schmid affair”, the bishop of Chur had evoked “liturgical abuses”, and ordered a preliminary canonical investigation. The clarification of the three bishops sounds like a warning to those who are tempted by liturgical initiatives.
It is more particularly to the pastoral agents that the three bishops, Felix Gmür (Basel), Joseph Bonnemain (Chur) and Markus Büchel (Saint-Gall) addressed themselves in their letter: “We know very well that it is not not uncommon for your job to require a dual balance. There is a big gap between what you are burning for, your personal faith, and coming face to face with all that is making the Church so painfully behind the gospel. »
Aware of the tensions around the place of the laity and further emphasizing the gap with society, the three bishops invite us to refer to the synodal process in progress: “We are very grateful for the synodal process, which shows us once again that we are on the journey together and that only together can we be credible witnesses of Jesus Christ. »
The three episcopal leaders then go on to recall the conditions of validity of Catholic celebrations: “Common witness requires common forms and rules. We bishops regularly receive worried requests and reactions:
The faithful have the right to religious services which respect the rules and forms of the Church. » After a development on the universal character of the liturgy, the bishops insist on the organization of the liturgy, knowing that these rules « concern in particular those who preside over the celebrations. You all know that only the priest validly presides over the Eucharist, grants sacramental reconciliation and anoints the sick. It is precisely for this that it is ordained. This Roman Catholic rule of faith must be respected without restriction in our dioceses. »
Defending themselves against any “patriarchal clericalism”, they recall the meaning of priestly ordination, with the conviction that “priests, in the service and performance of the sacraments, make visible that Jesus Christ himself acts in and through the sacraments. They somehow keep the space open for God’s action in the liturgy”. The discipline of the Catholic Church, specify the three bishops, requires “a sacramental designation, that is to say an ordination, to preside over the celebration of the Eucharist and to say the Eucharistic prayer as a concelebrating priest”.
The sign of unity
Relying on the work of pastoral leaders, the bishops nevertheless recognize certain demands of the faithful for a more open distribution of roles: “We hear the requests of many people to be able to participate in the liturgy in another way, for example by as women. However, we urge you not to make the sign of unity that is the liturgy a testing ground for personal projects. It is precisely in the global celebration of the same liturgy that we are Catholic and in solidarity with one another. »
Finally, referring to the apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi of Pope Francis insisting on the quality of the liturgies, the bishops invite Catholics to use “the diversity of forms of liturgical celebrations that the Church offers. And use the places of the liturgy such as reflection, preaching, meditation, intercessions, songs, music, silence, to be able to register there personally”.
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