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Proposal on Communion is a focus during Bishops' virtual spring meeting

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WASHINGTON — The Eucharist was a major focus of the U.S bishops' June 16-18 virtual spring assembly.

On June 17, they heard a full presentation on a proposal to draft a document on the "meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church," followed by a lengthy discussion and vote. And by a wide margin, announced June 18, the bishops gave the green light for the drafting process to proceed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine will draft the document and present it for discussion when the bishops reconvene in person in November. The action to move forward passed 168 to 55. There were six abstentions.

"We have taught in years past about Catholics in political life, the importance of adherence to church teaching in the document on worthiness to receive holy Communion, back in 2006," Bishop Rhoades said. "But with this new strategic plan that's going to be focused on the Eucharist, this three-year plan, we have to teach this again, on different levels."

The bishop was referring to a multiyear National Eucharistic Revival initiative that is part of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' 2021-24 strategic plan. The revival has been in the planning stages for over a year.

This revival is meant to place added emphasis on the Eucharist at all levels of the church in the United States beginning next summer and culminating in a large-scale national event in 2024.

At the end of three years, he said, it is hoped over 100,000 missionaries will be ready to evangelize about the Eucharist around the world.

In a June 16 report, Scott Voynich, chairman of the National Advisory Council, said the group of lay, clergy and religious members were particularly in favor of the bishops' National Eucharistic Revival initiative.

He said the council was concerned about a lack of clarity on the Eucharist among Catholics and felt the bishops should explain this better but its members also were concerned the plan could be seen as a burden, not an inspiration, for priests.

During their virtual assembly, the bishops also discussed their efforts on immigration, Native American/Alaskan Native ministry, catechesis and pastoral frameworks for youth and young people and marriage and family ministries.

In a 222-7 vote, the bishops approved a new national pastoral framework on accompanying youths and young adults in the church.

Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns, a member of the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, introduced the proposal. The committee will develop it to be presented to the bishops for review at their November 2022 general assembly.

He said the pastoral framework would be formed in light of "Christus Vivit" ("Christ Lives"), Pope Francis' 2019 reflections on the previous year's Synod of Bishops on young people.

That work encouraged young people about their place in the church and also urged older people not to stifle the enthusiasm of the young.

"A church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum," Pope Francis wrote in "Christus Vivit." "How, then, will she be able to respond to the dreams of young people?"

Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond said one aspect that should be highlighted is social media's current influence and how it "fights against our sacramental understanding of encountering one another."

The bishops also gave their go-ahead June 17 to two dioceses to continue their efforts to make their case for a priest and a brother to be considered for sainthood.

The men are Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur of the Diocese of Lafayette, La., an Army chaplain who died saving others in World War II, and Benedictine Brother Marinus of St. Paul's Abbey in Newton, N.J., who before he joined religious life, was Capt. Leonard LaRue, known for his heroism while serving in the Merchant Marine during the Korean War.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021