Without Eucharist Church Becomes a Museum, Says Cardinal Ratzinger

Focuses on Blessed Sacrament in His Latest Book

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who worked closely with John Paul II in the forthcoming encyclical on the Eucharist, has just published a book on this sacrament.



"In the crisis of faith we are experiencing, the critical issue seems to be increasingly the correct celebration and correct understanding of the Eucharist," the cardinal says in "An Intimate God" ("Il Dio Vicino," St. Paul Editions), which has just gone on sale in Italian.

Vatican sources say the encyclical on the Eucharist will be published in April.

"All of us know the difference between a Church that prays and a Church that has been reduced to a museum," explains Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"Today we run the risk of having our churches turned into museums and ending like museums: If they are not closed, they are pillaged," he says. "They have no life. The measure of the Church's vitality, the measure of its interior openness, will be reflected in the fact that its doors remain open, precisely because it is a church where there is constant prayer.

"The Eucharist, and the community that celebrates it, will be full in the measure in which we prepare ourselves in silent prayer before the presence of the Lord and become persons who want to communicate with truth."

The cardinal leaves room for arguments that are sometimes heard nowadays: "I can also pray in the woods, submerged in nature."

"Of course one can," Cardinal Ratzinger replies. "However, if it was only that way, then the initiative of prayer would remain totally within us: Then God would be a postulate of our thought. That fact that he responds or might want to respond, would remain an open question."

"Eucharist means: God has responded," the cardinal continues. "The Eucharist is God as response, as a presence that responds. Now the initiative of the divine-human relation no longer depends on us, but on him, and so it becomes really serious.

"This is why, in the realm of eucharistic adoration, prayer reaches a totally new level; only now it involves both parties, and only now is it something serious. What is more, not only does it involve the two parties, but only now is it fully universal: When we pray in the presence of the Eucharist, we are never alone. The whole Church that celebrates the Eucharist prays with us."

"In this prayer we are no longer before a God we have thought about, but before a God who has really given himself to us; before a God who has made himself communion for us, who thus liberates us from our limits through communion and leads us to the Resurrection," Cardinal Ratzinger concludes. "This is the prayer we must seek again."