At the recent virtual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre addressed the bishops assembled online.  During his remarks, the Nuncio observed:

“… we need to be a Church that follows the method of Jesus, which is one of accompaniment and dialogue, a dialogue directed toward salvation. … The Church offers salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ. …What is often lacking in the process of evangelization, and we certainly need to evangelize and catechize now more than ever, is ‘beginning again from Jesus Christ’… The starting point, therefore, cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.  With respect to the latter, Holy Communion is not merely a ‘thing’ to be received, but Christ Himself, a Person to be encountered.  Jesus Christ is a Person, not a concept.” 

Given the controversy and confusion that has surrounded this particular meeting of the USCCB in both the secular and some Catholic media, I found the Nuncio’s address direct, clear, inspiring and even comforting.  Regardless of where individual bishops stand on the need for a new pastoral document on the Holy Eucharist – and there was some difference of opinion about it –  the centrality of the Holy Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the life and faith of the Catholic Church (“the source and summit of the Christian life”) is not new nor was it ever in doubt or questioned at any point in the USCCB meeting.

The Church believes and teaches and practices what it has always believed and taught and practiced about the Holy Eucharist.  That is what the new proposed document to be drafted in the next few months will consider, similar to the USCCB document on the Holy Eucharist (“Happy Are Those Called to His Supper”) published in 2006, not a set of national norms on Eucharistic reception, although worthy receiving of the Holy Eucharist will surely be addressed.  

The alarming data published regarding Catholics who either don’t understand or believe in the true nature of the Holy Eucharist; the steadily declining pre-pandemic numbers of Catholics who have not attended Sunday Mass regularly; and the call for Catholics to return to Mass as pandemic restrictions have been lifted, all make the timing of this new document on the Holy Eucharist spiritually opportune.  In addition to this proposed document, the USCCB has initiated plans for a three-year “Eucharistic Revival” throughout all the dioceses and parishes in our country, beginning in the summer of 2022.