By Inés San Martín
ROME (Crux) – Though far away from the center of the action in Rome, Bishop Celestino Aos, the temporary head of the embattled Archdiocese of Santiago, Chile, has a tough job. He’s replacing a cardinal being investigated for cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, whose predecessor is also being questioned by local prosecutors.
During the Easter season, Bishop Aos might have made his own job even harder when on Holy Thursday during the Chrism Mass he was filmed denying communion to at least two faithful who were kneeling down.
Crux received two different videos showing Bishop Aos refusing the sacrament to kneelers in a celebration that made several Mass-goers uncomfortable from the beginning. The Chrism Mass is one of the most solemn liturgies of the year, and is often the largest annual gathering of clergy and faithful held in most dioceses. Among other things, it’s during this liturgy that the oils that will be used for various sacraments throughout the year are blessed.
The entrance procession included Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who’s being investigated by civil authorities for cover-up and who’s been named in a complaint for failing to report a rape of an adult man that allegedly took place in Santiago’s cathedral. This led to several priests walking out of the service, with Crux identifying at least two.
One of those priests forwarded the videos shown below, taken by a local TV network.
Bishop Aos’s decision Thursday to deny Communion to some of the faithful and to allow Cardinal Ezzati to participate in the procession at the beginning of the Chrism Mass enraged many in Chile.
Crux requested comments from the Archdiocese regarding the videos and Bishop Aos’s attitude toward the reception of communion, but did not receive an immediate response.
The Roman missal, the official set of norms for celebration of the Mass, establishes that Catholics who receive Holy Communion can do so either standing or kneeling. The Vatican-approved Missal for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay clearly states that both options are possible, unless a bishops’ conference decrees differently, something the Chilean conference hasn’t done.
As a matter of fact, the Chilean guidelines advise that faithful who don’t kneel make another sign of reverence before receiving Communion.
The English version of the Missal adapted for the United States says that the norm for reception of Communion in the U.S. is standing, but no one should be denied the sacrament because they kneel.
“Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm,” the American guidelines state.
Pope Francis has said that both options are valid, according to “the ecclesial practice.”
Speaking at a general audience on a Wednesday last year reflecting on the Mass, the Argentine pontiff said: “the faithful approach the Eucharist normally in a processional form, as we have said, and, standing with devotion or kneeling, as established by the Episcopal Conference, receive the sacrament in the mouth or, where permitted, in the hand, as preferred.”
Both Cardinal Ezzati and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz were once powerful and influential within the Chilean Church, with Cardinal Errazuriz, 85, even being a member of the pope’s council of cardinals that advises him on the reform of the Catholic Church’s government.
Today, Chilean lawmakers are trying to take Cardinal Ezzati’s Chilean citizenship away. Born in Italy, in 2006 Chile granted him citizenship as a recognition for the “fruitful and valuable work” he’d done in the country.
Bishop Aos, a member of the Capuchin order, was tapped by Francis to be the apostolic administrator of Santiago on March 23.
Since taking office, Bishop Aos has reached out to clerical abuse survivors as well as to a group of priests who suffered the sexual abuses and the abuses of power of former priests Fernando Karadima, Chile’s most infamous pedophile cleric. He’s come to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and the heads of various Vatican offices. He’s met with those who are in the outskirts of society and with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera.
Regarding Ezzati’s participation in the Mass, Bishop Aos told Chilean journalists that “the Mass is always a liturgical act, a reunion in front of the altar of the Lord and we’re there to celebrate what the Lord sent us to celebrate, and he sent all of us, and we all begin the Eucharist saying ‘I have sin in one way or the other’.”