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Swiss bishops call for respect for ‘rules’ after woman appears to concelebrate Mass

January 12, 2023 Catholic News Agency 5
The bishops’ call for adherence to Catholic “rules” follows an internet controversy over a August 2022 video of a laywoman who seemed to concelebrate Mass with priests. / Katholisches Medienzentrum YouTube screenshot

Denver, Colo., Jan 12, 2023 / 10:10 am (CNA).

Only ordained priests may preside at Mass, and the liturgy should not be “a testing ground for personal projects,” three Swiss bishops have said. Their intervention follows internet controversy over a video of a laywoman who seemed to concelebrate Mass with priests.

“You all know that only the priest validly presides at the Eucharist, grants sacramental reconciliation, and anoints the sick. This is precisely why he is ordained. This rule of the Roman Catholic faith must be respected without restriction in our dioceses,” Bishops Joseph Bonnemain of Chur, Felix Gmür of Basel, and Markus Büchel of Sankt Gallen said in a Jan. 5 letter to people active in pastoral care, the French Catholic newspaper La Croix reported.

Their three dioceses are the predominantly German-speaking dioceses of Switzerland.

The bishops acknowledged people’s desire to participate in the liturgy but said the Catholic liturgy has a universal character, and this especially concerns celebrations of the sacraments.

“Common witness requires common forms and rules. We bishops regularly receive requests and worried reactions: the faithful have a right to religious services that respect the rules and forms of the Church,” their letter said.

Their letter came after controversy over an August 2022 Mass in the Diocese of Chur at which a longtime de facto parish administrator, Zurich resident Monika Schmid, appeared to concelebrate the Eucharist to mark her retirement.

Bishop Bonnemain quickly opened a preliminary canonical investigation into the action on the grounds of alleged liturgical abuse. Canon 907 of the Catholic Church’s canon law bars Catholic deacons and Catholic laity from offering the eucharistic prayer and from performing actions “proper to the celebrating priest.”

Schmid has denied her actions constituted an attempt to concelebrate Mass or to be provocative, the Swiss Catholic internet news portal Cath.ch reported. Schmid acknowledged that as a woman she can’t validly celebrate the Eucharist as ordained Catholic priests do. She said the controversy was based on a video clip uploaded to the internet without the knowledge of all the participants.

“And some are already seeing red when they see a woman at the altar in a photo,” she said.

According to Cath.ch, the video of the Mass “clearly shows her, in civilian clothes, at the altar, surrounded by two priests and pronouncing with them, extending her arms, the text of the consecration of bread and wine and of the eucharistic prayer.”

The text of the eucharistic prayer had been “extensively revised,” La Croix reported in September.

In their letter, the bishops of German-speaking Switzerland said they are aware that some have argued that women participate in the liturgy.

“We hear the requests of many people to be able to participate in the liturgy in other ways, for example as women,” they said. “However, we urge you to not make the sign of unity that is the liturgy into a testing ground for personal projects. It is precisely in the worldwide celebration of the same liturgy that we are Catholic and in solidarity with one another.”

The bishops rejected any claim that they were defending “patriarchal clericalism.” Rather, they said, “priests, in the service and execution of the sacraments, make visible that Jesus Christ himself acts in and through the sacraments.” Priests “keep open, as it were, space for God’s action in the liturgy.”

Schmid, the pastoral worker whose retirement Mass sparked the controversy, was critical of the bishops’ letter. She advocated a liturgical celebration that, in her view, “reaches out to people in their daily lives, in their language and in their understanding of themselves,” Cath.ch reported.

The bishops referred to Pope Francis’ June 2022 apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi. It insists on the quality of liturgies, the careful attention to every aspect of liturgical celebration, and the observance of every rubric.

According to La Croix, the German bishops invited Catholics to use “the diversity of forms for liturgical celebrations that the Church offers … and to use places in the liturgy, such as reflection, preaching, meditation, intercessions, songs, music, and silence, so that you can be part of it personally.”

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Pope Francis: Women can change the system of power behind Russia-Ukraine war

March 24, 2022 Catholic News Agency 4
Pope Francis meets members of the Centro Femminile Italiane in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, March 24, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2022 / 10:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Thursday that women can help the world change from a logic of power, domination, and war, to one of service and care.

Reflecting on the war in Ukraine and how to end it, the pope said that “the real answer is not more weapons, more sanctions.”

He decried states’ spending on weapons as “insanity,” in the March 24 speech to women from the Centro Femminile Italiane (Italian Women’s Center).

“The real answer, as I said, is not more weapons, more sanctions, more political-military alliances, but a different approach, a different way of governing the now globalized world — not by showing one’s teeth, as right now — a different way of governing international relations,” he said.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the pope went on: “Why did I want to reflect on this with you? Because you are an association of women, and women are the protagonists of this change of course, of this conversion. Provided that they are not assimilated into the prevailing power system. As long as they maintain their identity as women.”

Pope Francis read a quote from Pope Paul VI’s 1965 address to women: “The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.”

“The prophetic force of this expression is striking,” Pope Francis commented. “Indeed, women, by acquiring power in society, can change the system. You can change the system, women can change the system if they succeed, so to speak, in converting power from the logic of domination to that of service, to that of care.”

The pope reminded all Christians about the fundamental need to change, following the lessons on peace taught by Jesus and “the saints of every age, who make humanity grow through the witness of a life spent in the service of God and neighbor.”

He said: “But it is also — I would say above all — the school of innumerable women who have cultivated and nurtured life; of women who have cared for fragility, who have healed wounds, who have healed the human and social wounds; of women who have dedicated mind and heart to the education of new generations.”

The pope said that for women of his generation, who have lived through past wars, it must be “unbearable to see what has happened and is happening in Ukraine.”

The conflict in Ukraine, he added, is the fruit of the old logic of power.

Referring to his past comments about the world living through a third world war “in bits and pieces,” he said that “the basic problem is the same: the world continues to be governed as a ‘chessboard,’ where the powerful study the moves to extend their dominance to the detriment of others.”

“It is now clear that good politics cannot come from the culture of power understood as domination and oppression, but only from a culture of care, care of the person and his dignity and care of our common home. This is proven, unfortunately negatively, by the shameful war we are witnessing,” he said.

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