The much awaited 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) officially commenced yesterday with a Mass attended by thousands of Roman Catholic faithful at the Plaza Independencia, Cebu, Philippines. The Papal Legate Cardinal Maung Bo said Filipinos are a great “mission” being the biggest Catholic Community in Asia. In his homily during the opening Mass, he said the country has helped in promoting growth of Catholicism in Asia.
Held every four years, this is the second time the Philippines hosted this worldwide gathering of Clergies, Religious and Laity bearing witness to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, as an important doctrine of the Church.
The first IEC was held in the country was in 1973 in Manila. Before the start of the plenary sessions today, to be held mostly in the newly constructed IEC Pavilion inside the San Carlos Major Seminary, there were series of events that preceded the actual Congress.
If one checks the IEC 2016 Website, “a Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people aimed at promoting an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church. It is a ‘pause for commitment and prayer to which a particular Church invites the Universal Church. During this time the celebration of the Eucharist becomes the center and vortex of all forms of piety, of theological and pastoral reflections, of the social commitment.”
The theme of this year’s IEC is simply “Hope.” The word “hope” makes a direct reference to young people, the hope of the future. It also refers to incredible human resources represented by the culture of different peoples, what they have created with the intelligence and brilliance of their minds, the treasures of their wisdom and centuries-old traditions, their concrete way of being human. “Christ in you, our hope and glory.”
The Congress will involve key personalities in the Catholic Church such as Fr. Timothy Radcliffe,OP, Fr. Francis Moloney, SDB, Fr. James H. Kroeger, MM, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo OMI, Cardinal John Onaiyekan DD, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson DD to name a few. The Congress will involve significant catechesis and engaging testimonies, cultural and social events, moment of friendship and conviviality as a gathering of people who recognize that the risen Christ, celebrated and prayed, is the heart of our life experience.
I hope and pray that after this Congress some clergies including myself can make an introspection as to their roles as servants of God. We’ve heard back in South Africa about some misguided elements with the Church that have eroded people’s faith, especially when it comes to moral life and lifestyle. Pope Francis always emphasizes to all clergies to live a simple and modest life. Everybody knows that the Pope practiced and lived what he preached. On his way to his office he took a public transport and stayed in a simple apartment. He cooked his own food. We cannot be Pope Francis and we will never be. But we can imitate the spirit of simplicity and modesty that he is preaching.
Unfortunately some of the Clergies today lead a very expensive and comfortable life. They own flashy cars and huge personal properties. Until priests reacquire their missionary zeal by living closer with their flock and not ensconce themselves in the comforts of their churches and convents, living like kings to be serve by their servants, Catholicism will continue to lose its relevance to our lives especially the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Fr. Aldrin Janito mccj