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Archbishop downplays possible attendance of Pope at Eucharistic Congress

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Preparations for the 50th International Congress, which takes place in Ireland in 2012, were unveiled at Dublin’s RDS on Monday as Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin presented the Congress Bell - the symbol for the event – and launched a recruitment drive for 3,000 volunteers to assist in the organisation of the event.

The question of whether Pope Benedict XVI will attend the closing ceremony of the week-long liturgical celebration on June 17 2012 at Croke Park remains unclear as the Archbishop of Dublin moved to dampen speculation, saying, “There are no plans in place for a visit of the Pope at this moment.  The Pope has been invited but the Pope’s programme has not yet been decided.”

In his address, the leader of the Church in Dublin underscored the reason for the Congress stating that, “A Eucharistic Congress is a particular instrument of renewal in the Church.”

He told reporters afterwards, “This is not a Congress about whether the Pope comes or not; this Congress is part of the process of renewal (in the Irish Church).  If the Pope doesn’t come, the process of renewal goes on.”

However, the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady acknowledged to reporters at the RDS, “I would hope he comes but we don’t know – we will have to wait and see.”

The Eucharistic Congress is hosted by a different country every four years.  The theme of next year's Congress is The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and one another.

The week-long programme of liturgical and cultural events, which is one of the most high profile events in the Church, will take place from June 10-17 2012 in the RDS, where up to 25,000 people from Ireland and overseas are expected to take part in workshops, seminars, daily celebration of the Eucharist and discourses between faith and the arts over the seven days.

Volunteers are needed to help with administration, hospitality, translation services and stewarding.

The closing ceremony will be held at Croke Park stadium in Dublin and is expected to attract over 80,000 pilgrims, including 12,000 from overseas.

According to the IEC2012 General Manager, Anne Griffin, organisers are currently developing partnerships with tourism representatives as it is hoped the thousands of international visitors expected to fly into Ireland for the event will give a significant boost to the capital’s tourism industry.

Anne Griffin told ciNews, “We know that there will be roughly 1,000 people from Canada because they have already expressed an interest; we have approximately 1,200 from the deaf community from all around the world; we have 100 priests from South Africa who are waiting for registration to open so that they can come and we have a delegation from Taiwan who are waiting to register.”

She added that it would be “the very first time Catholics from Taiwan will be able to come to a Eucharistic Congress.”  At least 800 pilgrims from Australia are also expected to attend.

In his address on Monday, Cardinal Seán Brady said the “purpose of every Eucharistic Congress is to deepen understanding of, and devotion to, the Holy Eucharist which is central to our Catholic faith.  That devotion holds a special place in the affection of Irish Catholics.”

He added, “It is our hope that the 2012 Congress will assist renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland by reflecting on the centrality of the Eucharist at the heart of our increasingly diverse community, and give renewed impetus to the living of faith.”

Referring to Ireland’s previous hosting of a Congress in 1932, the Archbishop Martin of Dublin said, “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 Secretary General for the Eucharistic Congress, Fr Kevin Doran said, “Core to the mission of the Congress is the view that it is a pilgrim journey involving spiritual and pastoral preparation.  Each diocese in Ireland has its own organising committee to promote a deepening of understanding for Catholics of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church, a richer celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy and an awareness of the social responsibility that comes with the communion and self-gift of Jesus which we celebrate.”

On Saint Patrick's Day, a pilgrimage of the Congress Bell will begin from St Mary's Pro Cathedral, Dublin, and head to St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh and thereafter it will visit all 26 dioceses in Ireland.

The Congress Bell has its origins in the Dominican Convent in Portstewart in Co Antrim.  Fr Kevin Doran said it was hoped that the bell would be a focal point for prayer in parishes and at places of pilgrimage all over Ireland between now and June 2012.

The bell is to travel to World Youth Day in Madrid in August, accompanying between 1,500 and 2,000 young Irish people who will attend that event.  Anne Griffin told ciNews that these young people would “in turn become ambassadors for Ireland and for the Eucharistic Congress as they invite other young people they meet in Madrid to come to the Congress in Ireland.”

The first International Eucharistic Congress, held in France in 1881, gathered 300 people at the head of Eucharistic movements in European countries.  During the following 125 years, the format of Congresses strongly evolved and they now attract some 12,000 to 15,000 participants for a full week of celebrations, adoration, catechesis, cultural events, fraternal gatherings, and commitments to aid the poor.  More details on the Eucharistic Congress can be found in seven languages at www.iec2012.ie.

by Sarah Mac Donald