On June 15-22, 2008, Quebec City held the 49th International Eucharistic Congress. This week was filled catecheses, testimonies, liturgies, adoration, a procession, workshops, etc., that gave those who attended it a wonderful picture of the richness of the teachings and rites of the Roman Catholic Church. It showed us how fortunate we are to have so many gifted cardinals, bishops, priests and lay people committed to the salvation of souls.
During the week, every catechesis, testimony and homily explained a different aspect of the Eucharist, underlining that true love of God and Eucharistic adoration must necessarily result in love of neighbour and social commitment. For the occasion, Quebec City's Pepsi Coliseum (an ice hockey arena) became a huge church, where the Holy Mass was celebrated each day before 12,000 people. The Congress began on Sunday, June 15, with the opening Mass concelebrated by 40 cardinals and 106 bishops, the main celebrant being Jozef Cardinal Tomko, the papal representative and president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Eucharistic Congresses.
This week-long Congress ended with the outdoor Mass on historic Plains of Abraham, as over 60,000 faithful gathered in pouring rain and thunder for the celebration of the Eucharist, also led by Cardinal Tomko, accompanied this time by more than 30 Cardinals, 200 bishops and over 1000 priests. Pope Benedict XVI delivered the homily on large video screens live via satellite from the Vatican.
Sunday, June 22: rain pours on the altar, while the cardinals are concelebrating Mass.
As reported by Jenna Murphy of LifeSiteNews.com, "by the time the lengthy procession had ended and the Mass had begun, the skies had completely clouded over. At the very moment in the Mass when Catholics believe the bread and wine are'transubstantiated'into the body and blood of Christ, the skies opened up and torrential rains drenched the crowd. During the Eucharistic prayer, a clap of thunder evoked from the massive congregation an awareness of the supernatural as all stood (and some knelt) open-mouthed in the deluge.
"After communion, Cardinal Tomko made his first unscripted comment of the Congress when he qualified the rain as'rain of grace'. This comment was seconded by Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who called it a'flood of Divine Goodness'— a line that accompanied the front page spread in the Monday edition of Le Soleil, Quebec City's local paper."
For a week, Quebec City's hockey arena became a huge church filled with 12,000 faithful.
It was mentioned in the crowds that it was the cleansing of Quebec, which badly needed this spiritual boost. (In fact it rained daily during the whole week.) Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the director of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network (and former organizer of the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto) explains, as reported by zenit.org (July 1, 2008):
"The real problem in Quebec has been the spiritual void created by a religious and cultural rupture, a significant loss of memory, bringing in its wake a family crisis and an educational crisis, leaving citizens disoriented, unmotivated and destabilized.
"No one has tackled this indifference over the past few years more courageously, eloquently and publicly than Cardinal Marc Ouellet. If the Eucharist is gift of God for the life of the world, then Cardinal Marc Ouellet has truly been a gift of God for the life of the Church in Canada, and especially in Quebec.
"Several times during the magnificent week of the International Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Ouellet stated emphatically that the congress marked a'turning point.'At the lively Saturday evening prayer vigil with his devoted young people, the cardinal said that he felt as if he had been 'raised from the dead'."
Other significant events mentioned by Father Rosica were the 5-kilometer (3-mile) procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Quebec City on Thursday evening, June 19, with 25,000 participants, and the ordination of twelve priests on Friday evening: "In a part of Canada and North America that has had few priestly vocations over the past decades, the ordination of 12 young men — eight of whom were from the new community "Famille Marie Jeunesse" — before a crowd of nearly 12,000 people elicited extraordinary emotion, joy, eruptions of applause, gratitude and abundant tears from those in attendance."
The theme of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress was "The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world." As a matter of fact, Quebec City was founded four hundred years ago in 1608 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who came on a vessel named Don de Dieu (gift of God). The influence of this vessel's name is reflected in the coat of arms and motto of Quebec City: "Don de Dieu, feray valoir (I shall put God's gift to good use)".
Here are excerpts from Cardinal Tomko's homily on Sunday, June 15:
"The Eucharist is a gift of God. Not as an object, as the other gifts of God, but a very special one, because it is the gift of God himself. The Eucharist is Christ himself, a Person with His divine and human nature, given to us. It is the body and blood of the Risen Christ present with us under the sacramental signs of bread and wine.
"Before leaving this world, Jesus wanted to leave to his Church and to all of humanity the gift of his Presence. He has chosen the form of bread and wine. Since the beginning of his public life, in Capernaum, He has promised the bread of life: 'The bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world' (Jn 6, 51). On the eve of His passion, in the Cenacle he took the bread and solemnly declared: 'This is my body given up for you'. And He said over the wine: 'Drink from it, all of you, this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins'. He has accomplished only a few hours in advance of, and in a bloodless, sacramental manner, the sacrifice offered in bloody way on the Cross at Calvary. Jesus therefore instituted the Eucharist as His redemptive sacrifice. The Eucharist is a sacramental form of the sacrifice of Jesus on Cross, Cenacle and Calvary are just one sacrifice'for the life of the world'.
"This sacrifice happened only once, but Jesus wanted to apply and to perpetuate it through the centuries. Therefore He gave a commandment to His apostles: 'Do this in memory of me'. It is a memorial and a command: not only to remember Him with speeches and words, but to do what He has done. From that time, the priests of his Church accomplish this sublime command doing the same action and pronouncing the same words. Through two thousand years the same words of Jesus consecrating the bread and wine resounds in each church. As Saint Paul testifies about the church of Corinth: 'For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes' (1Cor 11, 26).
"In each celebration of the Mass, Jesus Christ Himself is present with us in the situation of sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of our world, of our community: our sins. When the priest proclaims after the consecration:'This is the mystery of faith', the people profess their faith in Christ's sacrifice that is renewed at the altar:'We proclaim your death, Lord!'
"It is not a show, not a pure commemoration or remembrance, it is sacramental representation of this salvific event, a persevering memorial bringing its fruits to the faithful. The Sunday Mass is such a memorial. If we understand in depth the meaning of our weekly Eucharist, we will revise our frequentation to it. It will become clear for us why the martyrs of Abitine in Northern Africa declared to the pagan judge:'We cannot live without the (Sunday) Eucharist'('Sine Dominico non possumus vivere') and why they offered their lives for this conviction.
"The Holy Mass, possibly with the Holy Communion, and the adoration of our Lord present among us in the Eucharist – are the main form of our response to such a great Love of God."
During the homily, Cardinal Tomko presented Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet with a large, ornate gold crosier as a gift from Pope Benedict. (See picture on the first page, top left.) When Cardinal Ouellet was consecrated a Bishop by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2001 as secretary of the Pontifical Congregation for promoting Christian Unity, he was not in charge of any diocese, so he did not receive any pastoral staff. When he was appointed archbishop of Quebec City in 2003, nobody thought about giving him one; this has been made up for now by the Pope.
During the presentation of the gifts for the Mass on June 15, Msgr. Hermann Giguere, Superior of Quebec City's Seminary, presented the chalice given by French king Louis XVI to the first bishop of Quebec City, François de Laval (who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980). This chalice was used by Cardinal Tomko for the celebration.
At the end of the Mass, the Eucharist was placed in a monstrance, which was hoisted atop the youth-inspired Ark of the New Covenant. Four clergymen carried the ark and monstrance outside of the arena to one of the several eucharistic adoration chapels, where pilgrims could pray throughout the week.
On Monday, June 16, the Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec City, who mentioned the current food crisis in his homily:
"Beloved brothers and sisters, we celebrate now the memorial of the offering of the love of Jesus and of His Passover. The Lord comes to meet us, He calls us and places us in the heart of His offering of love for the salvation of the world. By giving ourselves over with Him, in love, let us ask to be ourselves sources of love for the world. 'The one who believes in Me, says Jesus, from his side will flow living waters' (John 7:38). May the Holy Spirit increase our faith and open our hearts to the gift of God who wants to flow in us and reach, through us, the life of the whole world. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta carried painfully in her heart the distress of the poor and the thirst of love of the Heart of Jesus, in one single mystery. May we also partake in the gift of God who wishes to satisfy all the poor!
Cardinal Ouellet giving his homily on June 16. Sitting on left: Cardinal Bernard Agre, former archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, who spent the whole month of June (except for one week in Quebec City for the Eucharistic Congress) at the headquarters of the Pilgrims of St. Michael in Rougemont. He was on the commitee of five cardinals in Rome who wrote the Compendium of the social doctrine of the Church, and therefore greatly appreciates our work for social justice. Before going to Quebec City, he had attended our week of study on Social Credit in Rougemont, and then spoke about us to all the cardinals and bishops he met in Quebec City. He will also be present at our International Congress in Rougemont this year (see page 24).
Cardinal Ouellet continues: "We celebrate this great International Eucharistic Congress at a time when all of humanity faces the possibility of a food crisis which is sudden and disastrous. Certain basic foods, like rice and corn, have seen their prices doubled or tripled in a few weeks, and this to the great anguish of the poor who do not have the capacity to buy these foods at exhorbitant costs. This situation is intolerable. A quick and concerted action by governmental instances and by the United Nations is necessary and urgent in order to help those who are hungry, and to re-establish the balance in food production and in trade relationships. Let us pray so that the understanding of justice overcome the greed for profit among those who hold economic power.
"We ourselves who now celebrate the Bread of Heaven, the gift of God for the life of the world, we cannot take this bread of life without concerning ourselves also of the fate of those who are hungry. Let us now seek to know and understand the causes of this food crisis and, let us call for some kind of political action, all the while committing ourselves for a greater and more just distribution of basic foodstuff, without forgetting water, so that the poorest not be excluded from the common table."
The Holy Mass on Wednesday was celebrated in the Byzantine-Ukrainian rite by Bishop Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M., Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg for the Ukrainian Catholics. It was a wonderful opportunity for all participants to discover the richness of the Eastern rite. (Ukrainian, Melkite, Maronite, Slovak churches, etc, are all in full communiuon with Rome.) On this occasion, all the people in the arena received Holy Communion on the tongue.
On Thursday, June 19, Bishop Louis Tagle of Imus, Philippines, received a standing ovation for his catechesis on the nature of the Sacrifice of Jesus and its implications for the spirituality and social ministry of the Christian. Here are large excerpts from his catechesis:
"These past days we have been affirming that the Church lives by the gift of the life of Christ… What a wonderful mystery it is to live by the life of Christ. Jesus'mission is to give His life so that others may live. In John 6:51 He says, 'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.' Jesus the Bread of Life is a gift from the Father. Those who eat this Bread, who receive Jesus into their persons, will have life. He will lay down His life, so that others 'may have life and have it abundantly' (Jn.10:10).
Every Eucharist proclaims, 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life' (Jn 3:16). Because the life of Christ is oriented towards others, the Church must share this life with the world. The Life of Christ is His gift to the Church that is meant to be the Church's gift to the world. In the Eucharist we don't only receive the life of Christ. Beholding this most precious gift, we are moved as well to worship and adore the Triune God.
The Eucharist does not fail to evoke from grateful hearts the worship and adoration that God deserves. But as we worship and adore we realize that it is Jesus who guides us on the way of true worship and adoration.
The Catholic Tradition refers to the Eucharist as the sacrament of Jesus' sacrifice… Jesus' sacrifice of his life was not focused on Himself or His agenda but rather was a response to the Father who had sent Him. The fulfillment of His saving will pleases the Father more than any burnt sacrifices (Heb 8:9). Thus obedience to God makes the gift of self an act of worship. Secondly, His worship includes His solidarity with feeble sinners. In Hebrews 4:15-16 it is stated, 'For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.'
"His oneness with weak humanity was essential to His priestly service or worship on behalf of the people. Hebrews 2:17-18 states eloquently, 'Therefore he had to become like His brothers and sisters in every respect, so that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself was tested by what he suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.' Here the image of priestly service or worship is applied to the redemptive mission of Jesus.
"His embrace of the trials and sufferings of human beings has made Him a brother who can now truly intercede for them before the Father's mercy rather than judge them harshly. He worships through supplications to God welling up from His compassion for erring sinners. In other words, Jesus' prayer to the Father gives voice to humankind's laments and hopes that He has made His own. In summary, we can say that the worship of Jesus is the sacrifice of His own life offered to fulfill the Father's will to save sinners, whose weaknesses He shares in order to lift them to the mercy of God as a compassionate High Priest and Brother. Obedience to God and compassionate action on behalf of sinners form one unitary act of worship.
"They cannot be separated from each other. Jesus' intercessory life for weak humanity before God is His priestly worship that fulfills God's will. Ultimately, we see in Jesus' worship the embodiment of loving God with one's whole being and loving one's neighbors as oneself. Every time we come to the Eucharist, Jesus renews His unique sacrifice and invites us to share in his worship of self-oblation.
"In baptism, we begin sharing in Jesus'sacrifice of obedience to the Father in solidarity with sinners. Baptism unites us to Jesus'sacrificial death and newness of life. Saint Paul tells us in Romans 6:3-4, 'Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.'
"In union with Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to offer our life for God that involves dying to sin. Renunciation of sin and faith in God form the fundamental worship and sacrifice of the baptized, made possible by our sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus. In this light we can understand Saint Paul's words in Romans 12:1, 'I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.'
"Like Jesus we are to offer a living sacrifice not made up of calves, goats and grain but of lives dedicated to God. This living sacrifice united with Christ's sacrifice builds up the Christian community as well. 1 Peter 2:4 rightly states, 'Come to Him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God though Jesus Christ.' It is evident that the living sacrifice of the baptized includes ethical demands.
"Saint Paul tells us that offering our bodies as a living sacrifice will happen only if we are not conformed to this world but are transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rm 12:2). Conformity to the will of God is a key to the sacrifice of life. It also involves living in genuine love, contributing to the needs of others, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep (Rm 12:9-21). We are back where we started.
"Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to the Father and communion with weak sinners is the same sacrifice that the baptized are asked to offer as a gift to the world. This is so because we have received His life in baptism. And in every Eucharistic memorial of Christ's sacrifice, we are taken up into its life-giving power so that we can share it for the life of the world.
"It is ironic that during the public ministry of Jesus, He was not always perceived as someone who offered a sacrifice pleasing to God. Instead of being praised for being obedient, He was frequently accused of transgressing the law of God. No wonder, some people attributed His miracles to the power of the prince of demons rather than to Divine intervention. His critics even took His repeated claims of oneness with God as blasphemy rather than as revelation of God's truth. (...)
"Jesus suffered on account of His self-offering for those loved by God. But He never wavered in His sacrifice. In the process He exposed the false gods that people worshipped, erroneous notions of holiness and the blindness of righteous people to the visitations of God. Jesus'sacrifice uncovered the link between the worship of false gods and insensitivity to the needy.
"An idolater easily loses compassion for the weak. Though He was judged, Jesus was the one actually judging the untrue worship that kept people blind and deaf to the true God and the poor. The Church that lives the life of Christ and offers His living sacrifice cannot run away from its mission to unearth the false gods worshipped by the world. How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self-interests.
"To keep these false gods, their worshippers sacrifice other people's lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of'progress'? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?
"The Church however must also constantly examine its fidelity to Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to God and compassion for the poor. Like those who opposed Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we could be blind to God and neighbors because of selfrighteousness, spiritual pride and rigidity of mind...
"The sacrifice or spiritual worship of Jesus on the Cross is His supreme act of adoration. In the Eucharist, the Church joins Jesus in adoring the God of life. But the practice of Eucharistic adoration enlivens some features of worship. We believe that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist continues beyond the liturgy. At any time we can adore the Blessed Sacrament and join the Lord's self-offering to God for the life of the world.
"Adoration connotes being present, resting, and beholding. In adoration, we are present to Jesus whose sacrifice is ever present to us. Abiding in Him, we are assimilated more deeply into his self-giving. Beholding Jesus, we receive and are transformed by the mystery we adore. Eucharistic adoration is similar to standing at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, being a witness to His sacrifice of life and being renewed by it.
"Aside from the Blessed Mother and the Beloved Disciple who kept vigil with the dying Jesus, the Roman centurion who had been watching over Jesus when He died could also be a model of adoration. Probably the centurion guarded Jesus from His arrest to His death. Seeing Jesus betrayed, arrested, accused, humiliated, stripped, and brutally nailed to the cross, he surprisingly concluded, 'This man is innocent' (Lk 23:47), and 'Truly, this is the Son of God' (Mt 27:54; Mk 15:39). Already hardened by many crucifixions he had supervised, he must have seen something new in Jesus. (...)
"He heard the lies fabricated in the Sanhedrin and Pilate's surrender to the crowd, despite the lack of a case against Jesus. He beheld people ridiculing Jesus, spitting on Him, stripping Him and crucifying Him. He heard the painful cry, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mk 15:34). The centurion saw incredible cruelty from friends, leaders, and even from a distant God. Betrayal, inhumanity, and viciousness continue up to our time in the many crucifixions of the poor and of creation. We cannot help but wonder why friends, leaders, and God are unresponsive.
"But I also believe that in Jesus the centurion saw incredible love, love for the God who had failed to remove this cup of suffering from Him, and love for neighbors. For His enemies, He begged the Father's forgiveness (Lk 23:34). To a bandit He promised paradise (Lk 23:43). For His mother he secured a new family (Jn 19:26-27). And to the God who had abandoned Him, He abandoned himself, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' (Lk 23:46).
"The centurion saw love blooming in the aridity of inhumanity. Amidst the noise of ridicule and lies, this man Jesus uttered words of fidelity and truth. Everywhere people were shouting 'no' to Jesus, but the centurion heard from Jesus only 'yes' to the Father, 'yes' to neighbors, 'yes' to mission. In this horrible cross of hatred and violence, the centurion found love, unwavering love, a love that refused to die, a love that was strong as steel against evil, yet tender before the beloved. (...)
"In Eucharistic adoration, let us join the centurion in watching over Jesus and see what he has seen. Let us cringe in horror at the sight of destructive evil. Let us marvel at the reality of spotless love, of pure sacrifice and worship. I wish that Eucharistic adoration would lead us to know Jesus more as the compassionate companion of many crucified peoples of today. Let us spend time too with the multitudes of innocent victims of our time.
"We might be able to touch Jesus who knows their tears and pain for He has made them His own and has changed them into hope and love. Watching over our suffering neighbors, we could be changed like the centurion into discerners of truth and heralds of faith. And hopefully when people behold how we bear others' crosses in love, they too would see the face of innocence and the Son of God in us. Let us adore Jesus who offered His life as a gift to the Father for us sinners. Let us adore Him for ourselves, for the poor, for the earth, for the Church and for the life of the world. Thank you very much."
The next day, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, India, gave a catechesis on the relationship between the Eucharist and the mission of the Church. Here are large excerpts:
"Pope John Paul II in his 2004, Mission Sunday Message called 'Eucharist and Mission', insisted that 'around Christ in the Eucharist the Church grows as the people, temple and family of God: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. At the same time she understands better her character of universal sacrament of salvation and visible reality with a hierarchical structure.'
"This is clearly evident in the life of the early Christians for whom the Eucharist was central to their existence as a community. They met often for this common feast. They gathered in the private houses of fellow Christians. They listened to the teaching of the Apostles, prayed together, conversed about their own problems, shared a meal and commemorated the Lord who was present in their midst in the breaking of the bread in memory of Him.
"As a consequence of this Eucharistic sharing their care and concern for one another developed and grew. They shared their possessions and became visible as true disciples of Jesus. This fellowship meal and the life of sharing were the hallmarks of their religious identity. They understood the symbol instituted by Jesus Christ as a call to build up a new society based on the dual commandment of love: love of God and love of neighbour.
"The life of sharing was so essential to the Eucharistic community that for the Apostle Paul, a celebration in which this spirit of love and sharing were absent was not the Lord's Supper. (1 Cor.11, 20). The Eucharist lost much of its meaning if it did not inspire and promote compassion, mercy and love. This is expressed beautifully in the Acts of the Apostles: 'There was not a single needy person among them' (Acts 4, 34).
"That is the reason why the early Christians were so acceptable to many people, especially the poor and the marginalised. Christianity was a dynamic movement towards the liberation of mankind from selfishness and exploitation, which are at the root of the unjust society. All were meant to equal in the believing community and this was symbolized by the Eucharistic meal. This was not an easy ideal to be reached. This was a spirituality developed in the midst of the ordinary everyday life with its daily struggles and, at that time also, in the midst contestation and persecution. Ordinary men and women lived this Christian spirituality and began the process of building a new society, a new human family as envisaged by Jesus Christ.
"The early Church Fathers placed very great stress on this community building and on the social dimension of the Eucharist. 'Do you wish to honour the Body of Christ? Do not despise Him when He is naked. Do not honour Him here in the Church building with silks, only to neglect Him outside, when He is suffering from cold and from nakedness. For He who said, 'This is My Body' is the same who said, 'You saw Me, a hungry man, and you did not give Me to eat'. Of what use is it to load the table of Christ? Feed the hungry and then come and decorate the table. You are making a golden chalice and you do not give a cup of cold water? The Temple of your afflicted brother's body is more precious than this Temple (the church). The Body of Christ becomes for you an altar. It is more holy than the altar of stone on which you celebrate the holy sacrifice. You are to contemplate this altar everywhere, in the street and in the open squares.' (St. John Chrysostom).
We are celebrating this Eucharistic Congress with the theme, "Eucharist as the gift of God for the life of the World". As disciples of Jesus, living in a period of the Church's life when the thrust towards the evangelizing mission is acquiring prominence again we must make sure that our Eucharistic life gives us a renewed sense of mission. We are celebrating the Eucharist in a world that is torn apart by discrimination, dehumanized by exploitative socio-economic structures, often dominated by the selfishness of human greed and avarice, which at times, have unfortunately even been justified by religious principles. (...)
"The selfish interests of individuals is achieved at the cost of the common good. The spirit of competition, which is the norm of progress and growth, exalts the powerful and mighty; it fosters the growth in the number of the poor and the oppressed classes. It affirms the individuals and destroys the community. It presents consumerism as a value and creates poverty as the permanent lot of many men and women of today. It is necessary to bring in the value of selfgiving and sharing as the guiding norm for building up the society. The participation in the Eucharist should empower us to become agents that build up a society based on self-giving, not on selfishness. Where there is sharing, there no one will be in need, where there is greed and selfishness there everyone will be always in need because nothing can satisfy selfish people.
"The Eucharist has a power that can challenge any situation that is opposed to the Kingdom of God. Jesus faced death and inaugurated the new Kingdom of God through His resurrection. The early Christian community found their genuine identity and their strength to bear witness to the Gospel in their Eucharistic gathering. They were able to face the challenges of the most powerful empire that opposed the Christian message.
Let us try in this Eucharistic Congress to discover the power of the Eucharist as a force for transformation not only of our own lives but also of the whole of society; and to bring out its potentiality to make our Christian life credible and our Christian witness powerfully convincing. Let us resolve to make the Eucharist the building power of our parishes and of our small Christian communities. If this is systematically done both by the pastors through their animation and by the faithful through their active involvement in the Sunday celebrations, our Christian communities will give rise to a new society in their parish territory.
The new society which we need is not a mere industrially or technologically advanced social set-up, rather it is a society in which acceptance of one another, love for one another and mutual sharing will become the law and style of life. Only Christians who experience week after week the unconditional self-giving love of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration can do this.
On Saturday morning, June 21, the catechesis was given by Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, Cameroon, with the theme: "Being witnesses to the Eucharist in the heart of the world." Here are some excerpts:
"The Eucharist does have a social dimension… that brings about practical commitments in society. Several recent declarations of the Magisterium of the Church remind us of this necessary linkage between the Eucharist and social ethics. This quotation from the Message of the eleventh Synod of Bishops that was held in Rome on October 2005 is echoing this concern.
"'Before the Lord of history and the future of the world, the poor of every generation and today, the ever-increasing number of victims of injustice, and all the forgotten of this world, challenge us. These sufferings cannot remain extraneous to the celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery which summons all of us to work for justice and the transformation of the world in an active and conscious fashion, on the basis of the social doctrine of the Church that promotes the centrality and the dignity of the human person.'
"One cannot transform the world if we are not ourselves transformed. Recently, in the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, our Holy Father Benedict XVI wrote (n. 89):
"'The union with Christ brought about by the Eucharist also brings a newness to our social relations: this sacramental 'mysticism' is social in character. Indeed, union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. The relationship between the eucharistic mystery and social commitment must be made explicit.'
"The Eucharist is a sacrament of communion. The fact that we receive the body of Christ makes us communion, thinking about the other. We truly become brothers and sisters. The Pope continues in his Exhortation: 'The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion between brothers and sisters who allow themselves to be reconciled in Christ, who made of Jews and pagans one people, tearing down the wall of hostility which divided them (cf. Eph 2:14). Only this constant impulse towards reconciliation enables us to partake worthily of the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. Mt 5:23-24). 'If you are excluding the others from your love, you cannot receive Holy Communion in a valid way.
"The Exhortation continues: 'In the memorial of his sacrifice, the Lord strengthens our fraternal communion and, in a particular way, urges those in conflict to hasten their reconciliation by opening themselves to dialogue and a commitment to justice. Certainly, the restoration of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness are the conditions for building true peace. The recognition of this fact leads to a determination to transform unjust structures and to restore respect for the dignity of all men and women, created in God's image and likeness. Through the concrete fulfilment of this responsibility, the Eucharist becomes in life what it signifies in its celebration. As I have had occasion to say, it is not the proper task of the Church to engage in the political work of bringing about the most just society possible; nonetheless she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice. The Church "has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper.'
"What the world needs is what I would call a global spirituality. Without the spiritual dimension, the world cannot do anything. Without God, the world cannot do anything. The exhortation goes on: 'In discussing the social responsibility of all Christians, the Synod Fathers noted that the sacrifice of Christ is a mystery of liberation that constantly and insistently challenges us. I therefore urge all the faithful to be true promoters of peace and justice: All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation.'(...)
"The Eucharist can only be understood as passion for man, and a passion for God written in the soul of each person. The Eucharist, by making us partake of the Body of the Risen One, by giving us His Life, and burning us with the fire of the Holy Spirit, can do nothing but to communicate to us the same feelings that Christ has for man and for God: it can only make us have a passion for man, and allow me to put it that way, it can only make us God's fools, people who are crazy bout God.
"The scandal would be for the Eucharist to make us wretches or atrophied people. Its truth, in today's world, is to make us passionate with love, full of love... What is love, from a specific Catholic viewpoint? It is to love those who don't love you. As a Christian, I must love the other person in order to be in the image of our Master, who loved even those who killed Him. In a noble sense, the person who loves becomes dangerous, because this person could love to the end, as Jesus who said: 'Love one another as I loved you', who loved us to the point of giving up His life for us.
"In that respect, the Eucharistic person is a dangerous person, burning from the fire of the Spirit, and whose only purpose is to extend that fire and to become fire for others. This person is a person of daring, of confrontation, of radicalism, and of the absolute.
"What is lacking in the world today is love. If love becomes humanity's soul, there would be no wars, no terrorism in Afghanistan, no war in Iraq, no political leaders who want to remain in power at all cost. A person of the Eucharist who loves disturbs everybody, might even give them the feeling of a bad conscience. That is our vocation as witness to the Gospel, so that the other person knows how to distinguish evil from good.
"We must be Christian on a daily basis. We cannot be witnesses to the Eucharist in the heart of the world without carrying within us an anguish for the poor, for those who are not well loved, without being open to all of love, thinking of each human being as Christ is in each person and each person is in Christ. Thank you."
Here are excerpts from the homily given by Cardinal Francis Arinze on Saturday, June 21:
"Our beloved Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, gives us His commandment: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.' (Jn 15:12). Today in this International Eucharistic Congress we focus on how we are to be witnesses to our Eucharistic Lord in the midst of the world. Mutual love is the commandment of Jesus. The Holy Eucharist calls us to this love. This love is to be exercised in the concrete situation of life in the world. This universal call to holiness is nourished by the Holy Eucharist. (...)
"The Eucharist is not only a mystery to be believed and celebrated, but also a mystery to be lived. At the end of Mass the deacon, or the priest, tells us that we are sent to live the mystery that we have celebrated, meditated and received. The Holy Eucharist sends us to show love and solidarity to our brothers and sisters who are in need. There are first the poor, the hungry, the sick, the prisoners, the handicapped, the old, and the homeless. Works of charity done in their favour are manifestations that we are living the message of our Eucharistic celebration. But we are also sent to console those who are in sorrow, to help to liberate those held in slavery, including the victims of sexual, racial or other forms of oppression, to give hope to street children, and to help underdeveloped peoples rise to an acceptable level of human existence.
"Love for our neighbour must not stop here. It has to include the spiritually hungry and needy. People are hungry for the Word of God, for the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore missionary work, catechesis in its many forms and leading people to the Church and to the Sacraments are necessary manifestations of love of neighbour. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of these various ways of bringing good news to the poor in the First Reading of this Mass (cf. Is 61:1-3). The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, told us that mutual love, especially solicitude for people in need, will show that we are true disciples of Christ and prove the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebration (cf. Mane Nobiscum Domine, 28). And Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that 'A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented' (Deus Caritas Est, 14).
"There is a relationship between the Eucharistic Celebration and social commitment. By our celebrating the paschal mysteries of Christ and receiving His Body and Blood, we are put in communion also with our brothers and sisters. We are sent to promote and live out that communion in society. We do this especially by promoting justice, peace and harmony in society.
"The Church preaches mutual love and respect for the rights of others, beginning with the right to life, honesty and solidarity. This helps towards the conversion of hearts and the disposition of people to work out political, social, economic, and other needed solutions. In the Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist the Church prays that 'this sacrament of love be for us the sign of unity and the bond of charity,' and that 'the Body and Blood of Christ join all Your people in brotherly love'."
Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
To conclude, here is the text of the homily given by Pope Benedict XVI via satellite Sunday, June 22, at the closing Mass of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress:
"Your Eminences, your Excellencies, dear Brothers and Sisters,
"While you are gathered for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, I am glad to join you via television and thus to participate in your prayer. I would first like to greet Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, my Special Envoy to the Congress, as well as all the Cardinals and Bishops present. I also extend my cordial greetings to the important figures of civil society who have desired to take part in the liturgy. I extend affectionate thoughts to the priests, the deacons and all the faithful present, and likewise to all the Catholics of Quebec, of the whole of Canada and of the other continents. I do not forget that your City is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation. It is an occasion for each one to remember the values that inspired the pioneers and missionaries in your Country.
"'The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world' is the theme chosen for this new International Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure. It is the Sacrament par excellence; it ushers us into eternal life in advance; it contains the entire mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and life of the Church as the Second Vatican Council recalled (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 8). It is therefore particularly important that pastors and faithful be constantly committed to deepening their knowledge of this great Sacrament. In this way each one will be able to affirm his faith and carry out his mission in the Church and in the world ever better, remembering that the Eucharist bears fruit in one's personal life, in the life of the Church and the world.
"The Spirit of truth bears witness in your hearts; may you too witness to Christ among men and women, as the Gospel acclamation of this Mass says. Thus, participation in the Eucharist does not distance our contemporaries. On the contrary, since it is the expression par excellence of God's love, it calls us to join forces with all our brothers and sisters to confront today's challenges and make the earth a place that is pleasant to live in. This requires that we constantly fight to ensure that everyone is respected, from conception until natural death, that our rich societies welcome the poorest and restore dignity to all, that everyone has food and can enable his family to survive and that peace and justice shine out on all the continents. These are some of the challenges that must mobilize all our contemporaries, and from the Eucharistic mystery Christians must draw the strength to confront them.
"The'Mystery of Faith': this we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council's text on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery. In this way, each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery.
"I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it. I urge priests especially to give due honour to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: it is the Church's treasure.
"Reception of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament — by this we mean deepening our Communion, preparing for it and prolonging it — is also about allowing ourselves to enter into communion with Christ, and through him with the whole of the Trinity, so as to become what we receive and to live in communion with the Church. It is by receiving the Body of Christ that we receive the strength'of unity with God and with one another'(St Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioannis Evangelium, 11: 11; cf. St Augustine, Sermo 577).
"We must never forget that the Church is built around Christ and that, as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albert the Great have all said, following St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor 10: 17), the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Church's unity, because we all form one single body of which the Lord is the head. We must go back again and again to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where we were given a pledge of the mystery of our redemption on the Cross. The Last Supper is the locus of the nascent Church, the womb containing the Church of every age. In the Eucharist, Christ's sacrifice is constantly renewed, Pentecost is constantly renewed. May all of you become ever more deeply aware of the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, because Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day when we honour Christ, the day when we receive the strength to live each day the gift of God.
"I would also like to invite pastors and the faithful to take a renewed interest in their preparation for receiving the Eucharist. Despite our weakness and sin, Christ wants to make his dwelling place in us. This is why we must do everything in our power to receive him with a pure heart, continuously rediscovering through the Sacrament of forgiveness that purity which sin has stained, 'that (our) minds be attuned to (our) voices' (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 11), according to the Council's invitation. Sin in fact, especially serious sin, impedes the action of Eucharistic grace within us. Moreover, those who cannot receive Communion because of their situation will find a saving power and effectiveness in a Communion of desire and from participation at the Eucharist.
"The Eucharist has a very special place in the life of Saints. Let us thank God for the history of holiness of Quebec and of Canada, which has contributed to the missionary life of the Church. Your country honours in particular its Canadian martyrs, John Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions who were able to give their lives for Christ, thereby associating themselves with His sacrifice on the Cross. They belong to the generation of men and women who founded and developed the Church in Canada, with Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marguerite of Youville, Marie of the Incarnation, Marie Catherine of St. Augustine, Bishop François de Laval, founder of the first diocese in North America, Dina Bélanger and Kateri Tekakwitha. Learn from them and, like them, be fearless; God accompanies and protects you; every day make an offering for the glory of God the Father and play your part in the construction of the world, proudly remembering your religious heritage and its social and cultural outreach, and taking care to spread around you the moral and spiritual values that come to us from the Lord.
"The Eucharist is not a meal with friends. It is the mystery of a covenant. 'The prayers and rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice revive the whole history of salvation continuously before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle and make us enter its significance ever more deeply' (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Wege zu inneren Stille, Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). We are called to enter into this mystery of a covenant by conforming our lives ever more closely each day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: 'every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree' (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7). In a certain way, it is a 'heavenly liturgy', an anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, announcing the death and Resurrection of Christ 'until he comes' (1 Cor 11: 26).
"In order that the People of God may never lack ministers to give them the Body of Christ, we must ask the Lord to make the gift of new priests to his Church. I also ask you to pass on the call to the priesthood to young men, so that they will joyfully and fearlessly respond to the Lord. They will not be disappointed. May the family be the origin and cradle of vocations.
"Before I conclude, I joyfully announce to you the venue of the next International Eucharistic Congress. It will be held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. I ask the Lord to enable each one of you to discover the depth and grandeur of the mystery of faith. May Christ, present in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit invoked upon the bread and the wine, accompany you on your daily journey and in your mission. May you be ready for God to work within you, after the example of the Virgin Mary. As I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady, of St. Anne, Patronness of Quebec, and of all your country's Saints, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all, as well as to all those present who have come from the different countries of the world."
Pope Benedict XVI