Millions Show Love for the Eucharist in Philippines Procession

The eight-day International Eucharistic Congress showcased Masses and inspiring talks by bishops and a video message by Pope Francis.

Eucharistic procession in the Philippines for the International Eucharistic Congress.
Eucharistic procession in the Philippines for the International Eucharistic Congress. (photo: Courtesy of CBCP Monitor)

CEBU, Philippines — Massive crowds, estimated in the millions, took part in the Masses and liturgical processions of the eight-day International Eucharistic Congress that recently concluded in the Philippines.

“We are called to understand, love and assimilate the very love of Jesus. … Our lives, too, must be offered in sacrifice,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said in his Jan. 29 homily.

An estimated 1.5 million people attended a Mass and liturgical procession for the International Eucharistic Congress in the Philippines on Friday. The Mass was held on the grounds of the Cebu Provincial Capitol.

Archbishop Martin said that the Church became present through the Eucharist.

“There is no Church without the Eucharist. The Eucharist constructs the Church,” he said, according to CBCP News, adding that a Eucharistic community must always be a caring one.

Friday’s Mass was concelebrated by hundreds of priests and bishops, including Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, the papal legate to the congress; Archbishop Bernardino Auza, who heads the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations; and Archbishop Piero Marini, head of the pontifical commission on the International Eucharist Congress.

Five thousand boys and girls received their first Communion on Saturday at the Cebu City Sports Complex.

About 12,000 people took part in the events of the congress itself. The event aims to witness to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and to promote a better understanding of the liturgy and the Eucharist in the life of the Church. The congress is now held every four years. Budapest, Hungary will be the site of the 2020 International Eucharistic Conference. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was among the Philippines’ congress’ speakers. He spoke on the topic “The Eucharist and Mary.”

He told Vatican Radio that the Eucharistic congress shows “the power of other people.”

“It’s the power of seeing them trying their best to live their faith. And I think that’s the genius of Catholicism: We’re not in this alone.”

In contrast to American individualism, he said, the Catholic faith is both personal and something that is “received and lived out together, in a community, with other people that we call the Church.”

On Sunday at least 1 million more people attended the Statio Orbis Mass, the Stations of the World Mass that closes the Congress. The name of the Mass refers to the global nature of the gathering.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon was the closing Mass’ principal celebrant. “The youth of the Philippines are the hope of the Church,” the cardinal said in his homily. “This nation will become light not only to Asia, but to the whole world.”

He encouraged Filipinos to have many children, suggesting that Christianity is in a “twilight” in the West, but the Philippines could be a “new dawn.”

“Multiply your children. Multiply your missionaries. Go to Europe and America: There they have more cats and dogs!”

The cardinal said that the destruction of the family is “the greatest danger.” He warned against countries whose laws have “started on the path of destroying families.”

“The future of the Church depends on Catholic families,” he said Jan. 31.

He said that young people are a blessing for the Church and that young people deserve “understanding, not judgment” from the Church.

At the close of the Mass, Pope Francis addressed the event in a video message. He encouraged attendees to be “missionary disciples” and bring God’s mercy to everyone.

“At each Eucharist, the table of the Lord’s Supper, we should be inspired to follow his example, by reaching out to others, in a spirit of respect and openness, in order to share with them the gift we ourselves have received,” the Pope said.

He said the Eucharist is a consolation for Catholics and also a summons to be a missionary to bring God’s mercy to everyone.

“Dear friends, may this Eucharistic Congress strengthen you in your love of Christ present in the Eucharist,” he said in the video message.  “May it be a leaven of reconciliation and peace for the entire world.”

“Christ’s presence among us is not only a consolation, but also a promise and a summons,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “It is a promise that everlasting joy and peace will one day be ours in the fullness of his kingdom. But it is also a summons to go forth, as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father’s tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child.”

In light of injustices, conflicts and humanitarian crises, he said, it is important for every Christian to be “a true missionary disciple, bringing the good news of Christ’s redemptive love to a world in such need of reconciliation, justice and peace.”

Pope Francis also invoked the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“We are called to bring the balm of God’s merciful love to the whole human family, binding up wounds, bringing hope where despair so often seems to have the upper hand,” he said.

The Pope encouraged participants in the congress to reflect on two of Jesus Christ’s gestures at the Last Supper: his showing of fellowship at the table and his washing of feet.

“We know how important it was for Jesus to share meals with his disciples, but also, and especially, with sinners and the outcast,” the Pope said. “Sitting at table, Jesus was able to listen to others, to hear their stories, to appreciate their hopes and aspirations and to speak to them of the Father’s love.”

The Pope also reflected on the Asian context, saying the Church there is committed to respectful dialogue with other religions. 

“Through the testimony of lives transformed by God’s love, we best proclaim the kingdom’s promise of reconciliation, justice and unity for the human family. Our example can open hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, who leads them to Christ the Savior.”

Pope Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples “as a sign of humble service, of the unconditional love with which he gave his life on the cross for the salvation of the world.”

“The Eucharist is a school of humble service. It teaches us readiness to be there for others,” he said. “This, too, is at the heart of missionary discipleship.”

Pope Francis’ message praised the Filipino people as “an example of fidelity and deep devotion to the Lord and his Church.” They have been “a people of missionaries, spreading the light of the Gospel in Asia and to the ends of the earth.”

The Pope reflected on the wake of the devastating storm Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.

“It brought immense devastation to the Philippines, yet it also brought in its wake an immense outpouring of solidarity, generosity and goodness,” he said. “People set about rebuilding not just homes, but lives.” 

The Pope encouraged his audience to seek renewal in the Eucharist. 

“The Eucharist speaks to us of that power, which flows from the cross and constantly brings new life. It changes hearts. It enables us to be caring, to protect the poor and the vulnerable and to be sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. It teaches us to act with integrity and to reject the injustice and corruption which poison the roots of society.”

‘One of our Eucharistic ministers was running out of Hosts and, suddenly, there were more Hosts in the ciborium. God just duplicated himself in the ciborium,” an emotional Father Joseph Crowley told the faithful.

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