If there are too few priests in parishes, some parishes offer so-called celebrations of the Word of God with the distribution of communion. The Archbishop of Paderborn, Hans-Josef Becker, now releases this celebration for the next three years. Why?
Interviewer: The decision was preceded by a model project. What has been your experience in this?
Monsignor Dr. Michael Bredeck (Head of Development and Communication in the Archdiocese of Paderborn): The main experience was that the faithful who wanted to receive communion were able to do so in a very dignified way. The leaders of the Word of God have gone through a spiritual process that has really been a powerful experience for people. All of this has been done in conjunction with the pastoral team and the pastor, and especially with the other services and also Holy Masses there in the pastoral area.
Interviewer: A Liturgy of the Word with Communion consists of prayers, songs, and texts from the Bible. Towards the end, consecrated hosts are distributed to the faithful. There are critics who say such a service devalues the celebration of the Eucharist. Do you also have this concern?
Bredeck: We do not have this concern in the archdiocese now, because this model project has shown that this connection between the Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Word can be successfully presented. We have had a time of expectation in the model project in Warburg. The consecrated hosts were then brought from a Mass in one of the neighboring parishes to the church where the Liturgy of the Word took place.
Interviewer: Do you not fear that the faithful will then go to Mass less, but prefer these celebrations of the Word of God? For example, because they don’t have to travel so far to do it.
Bredeck: The faithful gather in their church on Sundays and that is good for now. They do that where they live and where they also like to celebrate the divine service. So far we have not been able to make such an experience.
Interviewer: How do you still want to maintain the appreciation for the Eucharistic celebration, i.e. the normal Mass??
Bredeck: It is important to understand that what the Archbishop released on Saturday, as he put it, is not a substitute for Holy Mass, but takes place in places where Holy Mass can only be celebrated once or twice a month. Appreciation for the Eucharist is the most important thing. The archbishop also emphasized that. This will continue to be put front and center through liturgical formation and working on the "quality" of the celebration of the Eucharist.
Interviewer: There are places in the world where the faithful have to travel many miles to be able to celebrate Mass at all. Despite the lack of priests, this is not yet so bad in our area. Why then nevertheless this offer to the word God celebration?
Bredeck: In the archdiocese of Paderborn, we already have a number of areas that are very rural or where the distances between the churches are also very great. In these areas we simply have the problem that a large number of parishes cannot celebrate Holy Mass on Sundays because we simply do not have the priests.
The archbishop has said for our diocese, priests should celebrate three Masses on Sunday – no more. This is also the basis for this decision now. In this respect, there was a pastoral consideration, I will call it that, which led to say: This is now necessary or helpful here in the diocese in these places in the individual situation.
Interviewer: Possibly now also in the Corona situation, when it then comes to Christmas and so on?
Bredeck: Yes, certainly also there. But that wasn’t the focus when we launched the project in Warburg. That was not the background for this decision either, but of course this can help a lot in this context now.
The interview was conducted by Dagmar Peters.