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How is the Eucharist relevant for us today? (The 51st International Eucharistic Congress––First of a series)
Saturday, February 20, 2016

The 51st International Eucharistic Congress which happened recently in Cebu City, Philippines was truly a historic and, at the same time, a highly pastoral event. The last time the IEC was held in the country was 79 years ago in Manila. (Just a bit of trivia: Among the delegates, both lay and clergy, the only person who was present in both Congresses is His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop-Emeritus of Cebu. Cardinal Vidal was then a young boy turning 6, who received his first holy communion in that year’s IEC.)

 

Just how important was the recent IEC in the faith life of every Catholic? What did it hope to achieve? What impact will it have on the journey of faith not only of the Filipino Catholics, but of the 1 billion Catholics around the world?


According to the IEC Primer which was circulated prior to the Congress, the IEC is intended to be a station—a kind of a “stopover” on a journey—where a local Church community gathers around the Eucharist to celebrate, render honor, and pray in the presence of the Lord in his Eucharistic Mystery. The Eucharist was the center of everything that took place in the Congress, the catechesis providing a deeper understanding of each person’s passion and commitment to the Eucharistic mystery that takes place every time he or she participates in the Mass. The Congress was also a universal gathering signifying the faithful’s communion with Christ. It was indeed an opportunity to experience and understand the Eucharist as a transformation encounter with the Lord and His Word.


From January 24th till the 30th, this deeper understanding and experience of the Eucharist was promoted and nurtured via catechetical sessions given by Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinals, personal testimonies highlighting the faith journey of Catholics worldwide, prayer gatherings, the Eucharistic celebrations, plenary sessions, and one-to-one encounters with fellow pilgrims.


His Eminence Charles Maung Cardinal Bo, SDB, D.D., Papal Legate to the IEC, opened the Congress with the celebration of the Mass on January 24. Twelve thousand delegates, plus hundreds of thousands more of the general public, flocked to the Plaza Independencia to participate in that Mass.


In his homily, Cardinal Bo sent the Holy Father’s love to the Filipinos and to the thousands present in the IEC, and set the hearts of the faithful to welcome and experience in joyful anticipation the next 5 days.


Cardinal Bo emphasized the two eyes of the Eucharist—as Presence and Mission. “Eucharist is a historic faith event. Eucharist is the presence of Jesus. It is the same Lord of Moses, Abraham and Isaac. It is the same Lord who through the Paschal meal liberated the Israelites from slavery, through his son, the Paschal lamb. He extends to the WHOLE humanity the gift of redemption and salvation.


The celebration of Eucharist and its adoration continue to affirm that the work of liberation and redemption is not yet over,” His Eminence emphasized.


“We adore Jesus in the sacrament of the most Holy. In our personal moments with him, in our solemn benedictions and in our adoration chapels, the Presence of Christ continues to be adored. The Eucharist and adoration is the intense faith encounter with Jesus,” he added.


Cardinal Bo likewise reiterated how the Eucharist leads each person to mission, to love the poor and to unity or communion. (Alma M.Alvarez)




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