There is a shortage of priests in many regions of the world. We should be very greatful in Singapore and in our region that we have priests to celebrate Mass and other Sacraments, says Archbishop Nicholas Chia who represented the Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei at the synod. This is his report.
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution established by Pope Paul VI on Sep 15, 1965, in response to the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to keep alive the positive spirit engendered by the conciliar experience.
This principal characteristic of the Synod of Bishops is service to the communion and collegiality of the world's bishops with the Holy Father.
I am grateful to have participated in the recent Synod in Rome, representing the Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church" commenced on Oct 2 and ended on Oct 23. The Synod began with the Holy Mass, presided over by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and concelebrated by 256 Synodal Fathers from 118 nations and other participants in the Synodal Assembly.
It is significant that the Synod of Bishops, whose theme is the Eucharist, began with the celebration of the Holy Mass. With this gesture the Synodal Fathers, elected from within the Episcopate of the Catholic Church and, therefore of the people of God spread throughout the world, gave praise to God the Father, who is in heaven, invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, risen and present amidst His people, especially in the sacrament of the Eucharist. It was in this perspective of faith, hope and Eucharistic love that the synodal works were carried out.
All the Synodal Fathers were given the opportunity to share about the Mass and the Eucharist in their various regions. An hour was also set apart daily for open discussions. Many of the interventions have reported the deep faith in the people. However, in the midst of the lights in the Eucharistic life of the Church, there are also shadows and problems. There is a loss of the sense of sin and the persistent crisis in the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the shortage of priests in many regions. Sometimes the priests have to travel long distances to celebrate Mass for the faithful. Some communities are able to have Mass only a couple of times in a year.
Having this in mind, we should be very grateful in Singapore and in our region that we have priests to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass and administer the Eucharist and the other Sacraments. Let us not take this for granted.
My participation in the Synod was a great experience for me regarding the universality of the Church. Listening to the interventions, interacting and sharing with the Synodal Fathers have opened my eyes to the needs of the Church worldwide.
Through the Synod we look forward to a renewed impulse in the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News for contemporary man, new evangelisation centred on the Eucharistic mystery whose consequences will favour a rebirth of the life of faith, of hope and of charity.
We are all called to a renewal of our conviction that the Holy Eucharist animates and transforms the life of the Church as well as the many human activities in the very different circumstances in which we live in the various parts of the world.
Through our participation at the sacrifice of the Mass and the reception of the Eucharist, may we experience that Peace and Joy that the disciples of Emmaus with burning hearts received from the risen Lord who explained the Scriptures to them and broke bread with them. They arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem to share their joy with their brothers and sisters in the faith.
Let us seriously take to heart and put into practice the words of the dismissal at the end of the Mass: "Go, you are sent forth". We are sent forth to share the Lord whom we receive in the Eucharist and to share His Good News with those we meet.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop Nicholas Chia