Dublin, Ireland — The Church has nothing greater to offer than Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, Cardinal Marc Ouellet said as he celebrated the June 10 opening Mass of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
“Our gathering is an act of faith in the Holy Eucharist, the treasure of the Church, which is essential to her life and to our communion as brothers and sisters in Christ,” said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who is representing Pope Benedict as Papal Legate at the celebration in Ireland.
The Church, he told pilgrims gathered at the Royal Dublin Society Arena, “draws her life from the Eucharist,” and “receives her own identity from the gift of Christ’s own body.”
“In communion with his body, the Church becomes what she receives: she becomes one body with him in the Spirit of the new and eternal covenant,” the cardinal reflected. “What a great and marvelous mystery!”
More than 12,500 pilgrims from around the world are gathered in Dublin for the June 10-17 Eucharistic gathering. Its opening ceremony, held on the Feast of Corpus Christi, featured a parade of international flags as well as insignia of Ireland’s different counties, carried alongside symbols of the Catholic faith.
Cardinal Ouellet concelebrated the afternoon opening Mass with Dublin Archbishop Diamuid Martin, Archbishop Robert Jean Louis LeGall of Toulouse, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, and Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for Eucharistic Congresses.
In his homily, the head of the Congregation for Bishops recalled Ireland’s “long tradition of fidelity to the Catholic faith.” The country’s faithfulness “has enriched not only these shores, but has, through her missionary sons and daughters, helped to bring the Gospel to many other, far-distant shores.”
But Cardinal Ouellet acknowledged that the 50th Eucharistic Congress comes at a “turbulent time” for the Irish Church, which has suffered in recent years from revelations about sex abuse committed by clergy in past decades. The country also faces a priest shortage, and problems with theological dissent.
“The Church in Ireland is suffering and faces many new and serious challenges to the faith,” noted Cardinal Ouellet. “Well aware of these challenges, we turn to our Lord, who renews, heals and strengthens the faith of his people.”
The papal representative, who served as Archbishop of Quebec from 2003 to 2010, hosted the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in his archdiocese in 2008. The experience showed him “that an event such as this brings many blessings to the local Church and to all the participants.”
He urged the congregation at the Dublin arena to remember their baptismal identity as members of Christ’s “new and eternal covenant,” in order to approach God’s sacramental presence with awe and devotion.
“Every Sunday and every special feast day we go to church to meet the risen Lord, to strengthen our bond of love with him by partaking in the Holy Eucharist,” the cardinal observed.
“It may seem in the world’s eyes that we gather for social reasons or according to our cultural and religious traditions, but, in fact, we are called together by the Lord himself — who wants us to be one body with him in a real and faithful covenant of love.”
“Let us be aware of the unfathomable gift of the Holy Eucharist,” Cardinal Ouellet urged worshipers, setting the spiritual agenda for the coming week. “God deserves much more adoration and gratitude for this gift of love.”