is an encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...
on the Eucharist
"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood."...
, published in September 1965.
was issued just as the closing session of the Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...
was beginning. Written in a stern and troubled tone, its purpose was to counter certain theological movements which he perceived were gaining ground in the Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...
. Using terminology such as "pastoral concern" and "anxiety," the letter sends a direct and unequivocal message to the Church regarding the Eucharist. The Pope clearly feared that these novel teachings were threatening the Eucharistic piety which had marked the Catholic Church since the earliest centuries. To emphasize the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church, the Pope echoed the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, referring to the Blessed Sacrament the "medicine of immortality."
The letter, however, received little attention as the world's interest was focused at the time was on the final works of the council fathers, particularly Lumen Gentium
Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council. This dogmatic constitution was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, following approval by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,151 to 5...
, issued in November of the same year at the conclusion of the Council.
Issues causing "pastoral anxiety"
Paul VI felt very strongly that certain theological currents were threatening several Catholic doctrines and practices including:
- Masses celebrated in private
- Doctrine of transubstantiation
In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation means the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood, respectively, of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.The Eastern Orthodox...
- Eucharistic devotions
A Roman Catholic devotion is a gift of oneself, or one's activities to God. It is a willingness and desire to dedicate oneself to serve God; either in terms of prayers or in terms of a set of pious acts such as the adoration of God or the veneration of the saints or the Virgin Mary.Roman Catholic...
False teachings condemned
Pope Paul VI in the opening of the letter declares the following teachings are impermissible:
- "to emphasize what is called the 'communal' Mass to the disparagement of Masses celebrated in private"
- "to exaggerate the element of sacramental sign as if the symbolism, which all certainly admit in the Eucharist, expresses fully and exhausts completely the mode of Christ's presence in this sacrament"
- "to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning ...the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, speaking rather only of what is called "transignification
Transignification is an idea originating from the attempts of modernist Roman Catholic theologians, especially Edward Schillebeeckx, to better understand the mystery of the Real Presence of Christ at Mass in light of a new philosophy of the nature of reality that is more in line with contemporary...
" and transfiguration
Transfiguration may refer to:In religion:* Transfiguration of Jesus, an event reported by the Synoptic Gospels in which Jesus underwent transfiguration with the prophets Moses and Elijah...
- "to propose and act upon the opinion according to which, in the Consecrated Hosts which remain after the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ Our Lord is no longer present."
"These and similar opinions do great harm to the faith and devotion to the Divine Eucharist. And therefore, so that the hope aroused by the Council, that a flourishing of eucharistic piety which is now pervading the whole Church, be not frustrated by this spread of false opinions"