07/03/2011 Eucharistic Congress 2012 launch

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Speaking notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
RDS, Ballsbridge, 7th March 2011

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.

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.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI: Address to Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, 10th November 2010.