It is through people’s sharing in the Eucharist that they come into communion with Christ and with each other. They also receive the pledge of eternal life to come, Pope Benedict XVI said in a video message released on the last day of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin, Ireland.
“The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church’s mission,” the pope said. “It contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness.”
The papal video message brought to a close the 50th International Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin, Ireland, from June 10-17.
The theme of the congress was The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with One Another.
The event is an international gathering organised every four years, and aims to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church.
The recent congress was held against a backdrop of anger over clerical abuse in Ireland as well as declining Mass attendance and a more aggressively secular society.
According to the congress website, the June 10 opening ceremony drew a crowd of more than 12,500 pilgrims from various parts of the world.
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the pope’s representative to the congress and the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, celebrated the opening Mass at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) events venue.
“How fitting it is that, in God’s providence, this gathering takes place here in Ireland. This is a country known for its natural beauty, its hospitality and its rich culture, but most especially for its long tradition of fidelity to the Catholic faith,” he said in his homily.
A “healing stone” was unveiled during as a means of acknowledging abuse of children in the Church.
The stone is a large piece of granite engraved with a prayer composed by a survivor of clerical abuse. The prayer was originally featured in the Liturgy of Lament celebrated in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral in 2011.
The pope, in his video message, had said that “thankfulness and joy” at Ireland’s “great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care”.
He added that “evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit”.
The pope said that the Eucharistic Congress, like Vatican Council II, aims to “overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ”.
The theme of the second day was Exploring and Celebrating Our Communion through Baptism. Thousands of pilgrims attended morning Mass in their native languages at 34 host churches.
Celebrating the value and central role of Communion in marriage and family life in the Church was the theme on June 12.
Among a series of popular workshops, talks, youth events and exhibitions, pilgrims heard Archbishop Luis Antonio G Tagle of Manila speak on The Abuse of Children: Accepting Responsibility, Bringing Healing.
He spoke about clergy sexual misconduct with some reflections from Asia.
“The so-called crisis of the clergy unfolding these past years is immense in scope. It includes allegations of sexual misconduct, suspicions about the clergy’s handling of money, accusations of misuse of authority, inappropriate lifestyle and a host of other things,” he said.
He added that “at first glance, this crisis seems to be about explicitly sexual behaviour only. But a closer look at the actual cases reveals that deep theological, spiritual, anthropological and pastoral issues are involved”.
On the evening of June 13, about 12,500 people participated in a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Dublin. Many carried banners representing their parishes, and the event included boys and girls who had recently made their First Communion.
Rain during the June 14 Mass saw the concelebrants wearing plastic ponchos over their chasubles. Earlier in the day, a large screen was erected for those who were unable to get a seat at the various workshops and talks.
The Congress celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 15, when speakers and pilgrims explored the theme of Communion in Suffering and in Healing.
Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was the main celebrant at Mass. Christians in Jerusalem “need to realise that Christ is with us, and find courage in His presence,” he said in his homily. “Though we are very few and diminishing in number, may we Christians in Jerusalem as well as all Christians remain faithful where the Lord has placed us!”
Pilgrims shared their views about the congress.
Ms Mary Walsh of Cork, Ireland, told Catholic News Service the Eucharistic Congress had been “an opportunity for people to come together and share and celebrate the beauty of our Catholic faith”.
“People rightly criticise the Church for its failings,” she said, “but the fact that the faith is often inadequately lived does not take away from the truth of it.”
Mr Tom O’Sullivan of Belfast, Northern Ireland, said the congress was “allowing the silent majority of the country to come together and share their love for the Eucharist and the Mass”. He said he had been heartened and felt his spirits lifted by participating in the events.
The event saw a few hundred speakers giving catechesis, personal testimonies and talks.
There were altogether about 160 workshops during the congress.
The next International Eucharistic Congress, in 2016, will be held in Cebu, Philippines. CNS