In looking for more information on Pope Francis I, I came across this story from Catholic News Service from 2010. It’s a beautiful mediation on the Holy Eucharist.

The world's cardinals meeting in conclave elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a 76-year-old Jesuit, as pope. He took the name Francis I. He is pictured in a 2005 photo. (CNS photo/Enrique Marcarian, Reuters)
The world’s cardinals meeting in conclave elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a 76-year-old Jesuit, as pope. He took the name Francis I. He is pictured in a 2005 photo. (CNS photo/Enrique Marcarian, Reuters)

QUEBEC CITY (CNS) — Humans may be fallible but the Catholic Church as an institution remains sanctified through the Eucharist, said Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

As a sanctified institution, the church always deserves defending, even if its individual members err, the archbishop of Buenos Aires and primate of Argentina explained in a large catechetical session June 18 at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress.

“The assurance of sanctity of the life of the church is not a question of personal or social privilege,” he said. “It is ordained for service.”

Cardinal Bergoglio acknowledged that the “world really has the impression the church is always trying to defend its own power.” However, he defended the church, saying that while individuals have abused their power, the sanctity of the church — through the gift of God in the Eucharist — remains intact.

The cardinal’s talk was one of five major lectures being presented at the June 15-22 congress. In it, he explained that the Eucharist is a gift that transforms those who receive it. It is both “sanctified and sanctifying,” he said.

He used the analogy of the marriage ceremony, with its anticipation of a lifelong commitment in love, as a parallel to the Eucharist. The church, in this sense, he said, is the bride, and reception of God’s gift allows the church “to share the life the Lord has given to her for the life of the world.”

Cardinal Bergoglio also reflected on the life of Mary as an example of perfect submission to the will of God. She is, he explained, a role model of one who accompanies Christ, trusts the Lord completely and lives in hope.

“We find in the Magnificat (the canticle of Mary in St. Luke’s Gospel) the very program of what she is teaching us,” he said.

Mary’s deep relationship with the Eucharist can guide the faithful and allow people to get closer to God, he said. She is the “model of the bond between the Lord and his bride, the church, between God and each man,” the cardinal said.

He compared Mary to a set of Russian dolls that fit inside each other.

“In the same way that a set of Russian dolls includes others that are smaller, but essentially identical, Our Lady is the smallest of the Russian dolls. Because we see in her the mystery of the bond that allows the gift of God to be accepted and communicated for the life of the world,” Cardinal Bergoglio said.

Catholics can ask for the grace to receive Communion in the same way Mary received Christ. And Catholics must venerate the church in the same way that they do Mary and the Eucharist, he said.

The cardinal’s theological reflection presented a church that is sharply at odds with those of fellow Jesuit Father Guy Paiement, who published an article earlier in the year on the Web site Journees Sociales du Quebec criticizing the focus on the Eucharist at the congress.

“The eucharistic congress proposes a ceremony centered on the adoration of the consecrated bread,” Father Paiement wrote in the article that was quoted June 14 in Le Devoir, a French daily based in Montreal.

“We believe that the Christian identity cannot be restricted to such a devotion,” he wrote. Christians today should take action to show “solidarity and commitment toward equality between men and women, democratic life, international justice and saving the planet,” he said in the article.

For Cardinal Bergoglio, the Eucharist must be at the center of the church. Describing the Eucharist as the “source and at the same time the summit of all evangelization” and a force that purifies and sanctifies the church, the cardinal said that the bond between the Eucharist and the church is one that cannot be broken.

— By Joseph Sinasac Catholic News Service

J.D. Long-Garcia is the former editor of The Catholic Sun. He joined the staff in 2004. J.D., a lay Dominican, studied journalism and psychology at Arizona State University, philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and theology at the Graduate Theological Union. He's taught classes at the Kino Institute, worked as an outreach intern at All Saints Catholic Newman Center, led a deanery confirmation program in Berkeley, Calif., and served as a catechist for children of various ages. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.


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