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Pope laments rigidity, praises Pius XII for mitigating Eucharistic fast

December 16, 2014

In his December 15 homily at Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis decried the rigidity and lack of principle of the chief priests in the day’s Gospel reading (Mt. 21:23-27) and praised Venerable Pius XII for mitigating the discipline of the Eucharistic fast.

The chief priests had “a heart without consistency,” the Pope preached. “And so they negotiated everything: they negotiated interior freedom, they negotiated the faith, they negotiated their county, everything except appearances.”

“Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us that the Christian should have a strong heart, a firm heart, a heart built on the rock, that is Christ; and then, in the way it goes out, it goes out with prudence: ‘In this case, I do this, but …,’” he continued. “It is the way of going out, but the heart is not negotiable, the rock is not negotiable. The rock is Christ, it is not negotiable.”

Continuing his criticism of the chief priests, Pope Francis said:

This is the drama of the hypocrisy of this people. And Jesus never negotiates His heart of the Son of the Father, but He was so open to the people, seeking paths to help them. ‘But this can’t be done; our discipline, our doctrine say this can’t be done!’ they say. ‘Why do your disciples eat grain in the fields, when they travel, on the day of the Sabbath? It can’t be done!’ They were so rigid in their discipline: ‘No, the discipline can’t be touched, it’s sacred.’

“Pius XII freed us from the very heavy cross that was the Eucharistic fast,” the Pope then said; Pope Pius reduced the Eucharistic fast from midnight to three hours, and Blessed Paul VI subsequently reduced it to one hour.

Pope Francis added:

But some of you might remember. You couldn’t even drink a drop of water. Not even that! And to brush your teeth, it had to be done in such a way that you didn’t swallow the water. But I myself as a young boy went to confession for having made the Communion, because I thought a drop of water had gone in. Is it true or no? It’s true.

When Pius XII changed the discipline: ‘Ah, heresy! No! He touched the discipline of the Church.’ So many Pharisees were scandalized. So many. Because Pius XII had acted like Jesus: he saw the need of the people. ‘But the poor people, with such warmth.’ These priests who said three Masses, the last at one o’clock, after noon, fasting. The discipline of the Church. And these Pharisees [spoke about] ‘our discipline’ – rigid on the outside, but, as Jesus said of them, ‘rotting in the heart,’ weak, weak to the point of rottenness. Gloomy in the heart.


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  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Dec. 16, 2014 12:00 PM ET USA

    The Holy Father often preaches against rigidity and legalism. I find this puzzling because I can't figure out who he is trying to reach. Personally I find it unusual to meet someone who is excessively legalistic, and not unusual to meet someone who is too in attentive to the demands of Christ and the Church -- e.g., Sunday Mass is "legalistic" and not really important. Does anyone have insights into who the Holy Father is trying to reach?