The 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which opens in Dublin this weekend, is a “golden opportunity for renewal and rebirth,” according to Derry’s Diocesan Administrator.
Monsignor Eamon Martin believes the week-long event - which takes place every four years to celebrate the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church - comes at an opportune time for the church.
He says: “These have been troubled times in our Church and, particularly, traumatic for those who have had their trust in the Church so terribly betrayed. Some people say this is no time for Ireland to have a Eucharistic Congress with the wounds from the abuse scandals still too raw, the country in the grip of recession, and people with so many other things on their minds.
“Perhaps, however, this is precisely the time when we need to pause, to humbly admit our sinfulness and dependence on almighty God and to seek God’s grace in the renewal and rediscovery of our faith.”
The theme for the Fiftieth Congress is ‘Communion with Christ and with one another.’
The events, from Sunday 10th to Saturday 16th June, will be held in the RDS Arena and the closing Mass, on Sunday 17th, will take place at Croke Park.
It is expected that, during the week, as many as 25,000 people will participate at the events in the RDS, including thousands of international visitors from as far away as the USA, Canada and Australia.
On the Sunday of the final Mass, 80,000 people from Ireland and all over the world are expected to gather at Croke Park for the closing ceremony or ‘statio orbis.’ More than 1,300 people from the Diocese of Derry have booked to attend the final Mass.
The wider programme of the Congress, from the 10th-16th, includes various prayer and cultural events, as well as testimonies by keynote speakers from all over the world. There are workshops on aspects of faith and belief including special sessions for young people.
Speaking ahead of the opening ceremony, Monsignor Martin says the Catholic Church in Ireland has begun a journey towards “deeper faith and renewal” and the Congress presents “a moment of grace.”
He added: “The International Eucharistic Congress can be a graced moment in the journey towards healing, reparation and renewal which Pope Benedict XVI called for in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland in 2010. The success of the Congress will depend on all of us, in every parish around the country, bowing our heads in prayer, admitting our frailty and sinfulness, and opening ourselves up to God’s grace.”
Ireland, says Mons. Martin, is ready for a new evangelisation: “The Congress shall remind all lay men and women in the Church that, by baptism, they have a personal calling to ministry and mission in the Church,” he added: “It shall encourage all priests and religious sisters and brothers in Ireland to renew their vocational commitment. It shall invite each one of us to reflect on our personal journey of faith. For those who have forgotten or rejected their faith, the Congress presents a gentle call to give faith in Jesus Christ another chance.”