7 Mar 2011

50th International Eucharistic Congress - Dublin 2012

In the RDS in Dublin today Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin launched two major initiatives as part of the preparations for the 50th International Congress which takes place in Ireland in 2012, a major volunteer drive and the Congress Bell. 

A major source of information about the Congress is their main website at www.iec2012.ie

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress will take place in Dublin from 10 June to 17 June 2012. While an initiative of the Dublin Archdiocese, the Congress is an opportunity for the entire Irish Church to welcome pilgrims from all over the world and to celebrate our common faith in Jesus Christ. The main events of the Congress will take place at the RDS, beginning with the Congress opening ceremony. It is anticipated that as many as 25,000 people each day, both from Ireland and from overseas, will participate in the Congress. Among the early indications of overseas participation are large numbers from Canada, the United States and Britain, as well as groups from Ivory Coast, Paraguay, Taiwan, Vietnam, not to mention the International Deaf Community. The closing ceremony for the Congress will take place in Croke Park on 17 June 2012.

What is a Eucharistic Congress?

A Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people which aims to:

• promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church
• improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy
• draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist (i.e., the responsibility which we have to live in the spirit of communion and self-gift that we celebrate).

The Congress normally takes place every four years. The daily celebration of the Eucharist is at the very heart of the Congress. The wider programme of the Congress includes other liturgical events, cultural events, catechesis and testimonies, and workshops during the week of the Congress.

The Congress theme “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another”, has its roots in the document Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council, where we read:
Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. ‘Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”. In this way all of us are made members of His Body, “but severally members one of another” (Lumen Gentium,7).

While many people associate the word “communion” strictly with the Blessed Sacrament, the idea of communion is significantly broader than that. Communion is a relationship of mutual love and self giving which flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The Last Supper is a unique moment of communion, which is brought about not only by the consecration of bread and wine, but by listening to Jesus (the Word made Flesh) and by the washing of feet. While the Supper eventually comes to an end, the communion initiated by the gift of Jesus continues to sustain the disciples through the experience of the cross, even when weakened by their betrayal, until they recognise Him again “in the breaking of Bread” in the aftermath of the Resurrection.

The challenge for the 2012 congress is precisely one of deepening communion, in a world in which many forms of community have collapsed. In Ireland, as in the wider world, much has changed since the last Congress was celebrated here in 1932.

Next week, on Saint Patrick's Day, a pilgrimage of the Congress Bell will begin from St Mary's Pro Cathedral, Dublin, going to St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh and it will visit all 26 dioceses of Ireland. The bell is a symbolic invite to Irish Catholics, and for Christians of other traditions, to join in the call to faith, prayer, reconciliation and mission that is at the heart of the Church's preparation for the Congress over the next year and a half.

The Secretary General for the Eucharistic Congress Fr Kevin Doran said at today's launch "Core to the mission of the Congress is the view that it is a pilgrim journey involving spiritual and pastoral preparation. Each diocese in Ireland has its own organising committee to promote a deepening of understanding for Catholics of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church, a richer celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy and an awareness of the social responsibility that comes with the communion and self-gift of Jesus which we celebrate."

Comments from Cardinal Seán Brady

"...............The purpose of every Eucharistic Congress is to deepen understanding of, and devotion to, the Holy Eucharist which is central to our Catholic faith.  That devotion holds a special place in the affection of Irish Catholics..........The Eucharist is the source and summit of the life of every follower of Jesus. The hosting of the Congress in Ireland serves not just our local Church, but it will be an international event.  The celebration will attract thousands of pilgrims and will enable Catholics, at home and abroad, to meet and participate in daily Masses, discuss issues of faith, take part in workshops, witness reflections, and take part in adoration of the Eucharist.........Of course this is the second time that the International Eucharistic Congress has been hosted in Ireland. The 1932 Congress in Dublin was considered an organisational success and it publicly showcased Catholic faith in the newly established State.   But we live in different times now.  I know that the Organising Committee will seek to reflect those different times in next year’s Congress. It is our hope that the 2012 Congress will assist renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland by reflecting on the centrality of the Eucharist at the heart of our increasingly diverse community, and give renewed impetus to the living of faith.............Last Thursday at Confirmation in Dromintee, Co Armagh, I met a 90 year old man who proudly told me that he had been at the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 and that he hoped, with the help of God, to be at next year’s as well.  I know that hope is shared by tens of thousands of people throughout Ireland."
Comments from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
(Audio of Archbishops comments here)

"Why a Eucharistic Congress in Ireland in 2012? The Catholic Church in Ireland is undergoing a process of renewal.  In Ireland, as in many Western societies, that renewal must spring from a new evangelization, a vibrant re-presentation of the essentials of the Christian message to men and women who, though baptized and who were perhaps at one time active participants in the life of the Church, have in various ways drifted away from full sharing in that life. In his first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict noted that:  "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" [1] Evangelization is not simply a human plan, but is about fostering the desire to share the gift of faith that God offers us and which makes us sharers in God’s own life. Evangelization and renewal in the Church take place at various levels.  A Eucharistic Congress is a particular instrument of renewal in the Church.   Eucharistic Congresses are in fact very common in the life of the Church.  In Italy this year one of the central events of the programme of evangelization is a National Eucharistic Congress to be held in Ancona in September. National Eucharistic Congresses have been held in recent times in many other countries, including in the United States, Spain, Brazil and even in Cuba.  An Irish National Eucharistic Congress is planned for this year. The Eucharist is central to the Christian life.  The Eucharist is the real presence in history of the self-giving love of Jesus on the Cross.  The self-giving love of Jesus even unto death is the source of the new life brought by Christ with his death and resurrection and with the sending of the Spirit. It is the Eucharist which shapes the Church.  The descriptions we find in the Acts of the Apostles indicate the essential dimensions of the life of the Church.   When the early Christians gathered “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The Church is a community of prayer, inspired by the word of God and by the Eucharist.   The Church is a communion, a special form of fellowship and sharing which is shaped by the Eucharist. The 50th International Eucharistic Congress is not a societal event.  It is an ecclesial event, celebrated in faith.  It is not an assembly about structures.  Pope Benedict spoke of Eucharistic Congresses as a way of promoting evangelization which “is carried out at the school of the Church in prayer, on the basis of the Liturgy and in the Liturgy”[2]. The 50th International Eucharistic Congress is not backward-looking event, re-evoking celebrations of the past and of a different time.  Neither is the Eucharistic Congress a sterile inward-looking discussion just about Church structures.  A Eucharistic Congress is a missionary event.  The Acts of the Apostles note that the fruit of the gathering and sharing of the early Christians was that “the Lord added to the numbers” and that they then enjoyed “the goodwill of all” (Acts 2:47,48). The hope of the Eucharistic Congress is that through renewal in prayer and its liturgical life, the Church will be purified, cleansed and renewed so that its true mission in the world will be more evident."

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