The 51st International Eucharistic Congress has ended in Cebu, Philippines.
As Vatican Radio’s Seàn-Patrick Lovett reports from Cebu, the week long event that saw the participation of faithful and clergy from across the globe concluded in style with a personal video-message from Pope Francis himself who also announced that the next such Congress will take place in 2010 in Budapest, Hungary:
So what exactly do you have to do to get front page news coverage of your international Catholic spiritual festival that brings together over 15,000 delegates from over 70 countries in an exotic location and a context of impeccable organization and style in order to listen to some of the most inspired and inspiring speakers in the world today addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time and that includes a celebration during which 5,000 children receive their First Holy Communion as well as an evening torch-light procession stretching over 5 kilometres and witnessing the participation of nearly 2 million people representing all ages and social groups and that culminates in an open-air Mass attended by approximately the same number of devout and devoted faithful and that concludes with a video message by no one less than the Pope himself?
Apart from using shorter sentences, you could start by avoiding any reference to the word “Eucharist”. In fact, if you were listening, you might have noticed my reference to the event as a “Catholic spiritual festival”, rather than an “International Eucharistic Congress” – which it was. But then, I’m only trying to help.
The fact is that, with numbers like those, any other political, sporting or entertainment event anywhere else in the world, would have attracted the kind of attention that it deserved. Evidently, the Eucharist doesn’t deserve it. At least as far as mainstream media is concerned. Fortunately, every single person who was here in Cebu (man, woman, child, secular or religious, Catholic and non) – would disagree.
To put it bluntly (and with no disrespect): we had a blast. And to be honest (with the utmost respect): it was more fun because it was in the Philippines. In the words of their own Pastors (and I quote): Filipinos do three things really well: sing, eat and enjoy celebrating their Faith. Of course they do so much more than that. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York publicly expressed his gratitude to the many Filipino priests who have taken over parishes in Europe and America that were in crisis due to a lack of local vocations. And what about the Filipino care-givers and computer programmers and artists and engineers who have brought the joyfully exuberant expression of their faith tradition to worn-out and lack-lustre Catholic communities on five continents?
So, by way of conclusion, and since I know you didn’t read or hear about it anywhere else, you need to know that for the past week here in Cebu we have been singing, eating, and celebrating the Catholic Faith the Filipino way: joyfully.
Here in Cebu, singing, eating, and covering the 51st Eucharistic Congress I’m Seàn-Patrick Lovett
As Christians, we cannot be self-centred, but must always be open to others and for others.