By Shannon Mullen
The U.S. Catholics bishops overwhelmingly voted to approve a new document on the Eucharist Wednesday that highlights the sacrament’s indispensable role in the life of the Church.
The vote, coming during the annual fall assembly of the the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, was 222 to 8, with three abstentions.
The product of months of debate and revisions, the text avoids any overt references to whether bishops and priests ought to deny Communion to public figures at odds with Catholic teaching on abortion and other moral issues.
Instead, the document aims to initiate a new emphasis on catechizing Catholics about the meaning and importance of the Eucharist, in response to what many bishops see as a worrisome decline in belief in the sacrament as the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
In an interview with CNA prior to the vote, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver explained that the document seeks “to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.”
In addition to approving the document, titled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” the bishops approved a strategic plan for a three-year eucharist revival campaign. The vote was 201 to 17 in favor of the revival campaign, with five abstentions. The initiative is to include the development of new teaching materials, training for diocesan and parish leaders, the launch of a dedicated revival website, and the deployment of a special team of 50 priests who will travel the country to preach about the Eucharist.
The campaign will culminate with a National Eucharistic Congress in June 2024 in Indianapolis, Bishop-designate Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minn., announced Wednesday. Cozzens, who is heading the revival effort as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said the congress would be the first of its kind in the United States in nearly 50 years. Previously, Cozzens said, such national eucharistic events were held once a decade.