Not surprisingly, however, the Pope did nothing of the sort. Although he did mention "eating," and "assimilating," it was briefly, and in this context. "'Those who feed on Him and abide in Him through Holy Communion and faith,' he added, 'will see their lives transformed as a gift to God and to others.'"
Pope Francis insisted then, as he did during his most recent angelus message, that the "bread" relates not to the Eucharist, but to Jesus' death on the cross.
But Pope Francis explained that, “knowing he will have to die on the cross for us, Jesus identifies himself with the bread broken and shared, and it becomes for him the "sign" of the sacrifice that awaits him.”
Interestingly, here is how a footnote from a popular Protestant study Bible, the English Standard Version, deals with v. 6:51. ("I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.") Since there is strong risk of confusion, what immediately follows is the Protestant explanation.
6:51 living bread. The "bread" Jesus gives is his flesh (a reference to Jesus' death on the cross). Jesus' statement intermingles physical and spiritual truth. Jesus is not talking about literal "bread," but he is the true "living bread" in the sense that those who believe in him have their spiritual hunger satisfied. He becomes this spiritually satisfying "bread" by sacrificing his own physical body in his death on the cross, and in that sense he can say that this spiritual bread is my flesh.
Note the same misdirection by Pope Francis and the Protestant study Bible. Both identify Jesus' "bread" as his flesh on the cross.
- Pope Francis: “knowing he will have to die on the cross for us, Jesus identifies himself with the bread broken and shared, and it becomes for him the "sign" of the sacrifice that awaits him.”
- Protestant study Bible note: "The "bread" Jesus gives is his flesh (a reference to Jesus' death on the cross).
So, once again, Pope Francis avoids Catholic content and preaches a bland message to which few Protestants could object. Why is it too much for Catholics to hope for the Pope to boldly preach Catholic teaching? Is this just another manifestation of Pope Francis' reported words to the divorced and remarried woman he phoned in Argentina in 2014? ("A little bread and wine does no harm.")
The Pope further diluted understanding of the Real Presence by making this Protestant-like closing statement. In it, "He who eats this bread" is a metaphor for "living in communion with Jesus on this earth."
In conclusion, the Pope recalled Jesus’ words, "He who eats this bread will live forever". He then explained that by living in communion with Jesus on this earth we can look forward to the voice of the Risen Lord who calls us when we finally close our eyes.
To get a sense for what Catholics formerly believed, read the notes on the Bread of Life Discourse by Rev. George Leo Haydock, which have accompanied many editions of the Douay Rheims Bible.
When you compare then and now, you can literally see the Real Presence receding toward the graveyard of forgotten dogmas, where extra ecclesiam nulla salus lies buried. Whatever separates must fade away. Nothing official, it just stops getting mentioned. "Pastoral" reasons are given for behaving inconsistently with it. Then one day people look at you like you're crazy when you say, "hey, did you know that the Church used to say the bread and wine were actually the body and blood of Christ?"
What does the Pope believe? He believes it would be nice if Catholics and Protestants resolved their differences. On the basis of charity and the duty of filial respect, the Bear must assume Pope Francis believes in the Real Presence. Remember, in the Gospel, Peter did not walk away from the teaching, and Jesus.
But as a lawyer, the Bear wouldn't have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict him, on the basis of his statements, of such a belief.