(Vatican Radio) The 51st International Eucharistic Congress is taking place in Cebu in the Philippines.
The week long event wraps up on Sunday 31 and sees the participation of Catholic leaders and faithful from across the globe.
Although the gathering aims to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church, it also provides an arena in which many other issues are tackled and reflected upon.
Vatican Radio's Seàn-Patrick Lovett is in Cebu and tells us more.
Tell the truth: until you read the title of this article you weren’t even sure there was such a thing as an International Eucharistic Congress. And no one could blame you if you didn’t know that Cebu was in the Philippines.
Just for the record, a Eucharistic Congress is a major church event that takes place once every four years with the aim of focussing attention on spirituality, community, ministry, mission, and all those good and beautiful things that make the Catholic Church Catholic.
This one is the 51st of its kind and is being held in the Philippines…well, probably because the Philippines is arguably the most Catholic country on the planet…and in Cebu because that’s where it all started. By that I mean, Cebu is the island where the Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, is said to have planted the first cross in 1521 - marking the arrival of the Faith in this archipelago of over 7,000 islands – and making Cebu the “cradle of Christian civilization” in this part of the world. It still is.
So why aren’t we bursting with curiosity and dying to read all about it?
Mainly because Eucharistic Congresses aren’t exactly the most newsworthy of news stories, and the Philippines (despite threats of typhoons and terrorist attacks) are just too far away to keep them on the media map (unless there’s a typhoon or a terrorist attack).
Interestingly, the Philippines were not too far away for the dozens of delegates (not to mention around 15,000 participants) who have come here from over 70 countries to focus on the Faith, starting with that which is most central to all Catholic life: the Eucharist. Only today I met a bishop from Honduras, a nun from Taiwan and a priest from Lesotho. (Alright, I won’t ask if you know where that is).
The fact is that this Eucharistic Congress is so much more than a congress – and
the Eucharistic, while certainly at the heart of the event, is by no means the only
topic of conversation. Some of the Catholic world’s most talented and prestigious
speakers are here to share their insights on everything from the role of women in
the Church to ministering to the Deaf. If you need me to name-drop I will: we’ve heard
Cardinal Zen from Hong Kong and Cardinal Onaiyekan from Nigeria. Up next will be Cardinal
Gracias from Mumbai and Cardinal Dolan from New York. And those are just the ones
with the red hats.
Also, I wouldn’t like you to think it’s only talking heads either. Most importantly, this International Eucharistic Congress is an experience of encounter, an exchange of cultures, a rare and precious opportunity to meet and network with some of the finest Catholic minds (and hearts) from around the world.
But don’t believe me. Visit the Congress website at www.iec2016.ph and see for yourself. Or just stay tuned to Vatican Radio and follow our own coverage of the same on our web and Facebook pages. I’ll be here in Cebu all week.
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