By Robin Gomes
“We are pleased to learn that the Holy Father has announced his decision to come to Budapest for the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress,” the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (HCBC) said in a brief statement on Monday. “We hope that his visit will be a great encouragement and spiritual reinforcement for all of us and for the future participants of the Eucharistic Congress,” said the statement by the Primate of Hungary, Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, and Bishop Andras Veres of Gyor, HCBC president.
The International Eucharistic Congress is scheduled from 5 to 12 September, in Budapest.
Papal visit to Budapest, possibly Slovakia
The Hungarian bishops’ statement was in response to the announcement of the visit by Pope Francis himself, during a press conference to journalists on board the return flight from his apostolic journey to Iraq on Monday. The Pope was responding to a question about the possibility of returning to his native Argentina, now that he will soon complete 8 years of his pontificate without a trip to his homeland. “I don't know if the trip will come true or not,” he said, admitting that his Iraq trip was much more tiring than the others. “We’ll see,” the 84-year pontiff said, “now I will have to go to Hungary for the final Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress.” However, he clarified, it is not a visit to the country but only for the Mass.
Pope Francis further indicated the possibility of a visit to neighbouring Slovakia. “Budapest is a two-hour drive from Bratislava, why not make a visit to Slovakia?” the Pope said. The Slovak bishops have not commented on the possible papal visit as yet.
The Pope explained that he does not make decisions on his foreign visits suddenly. It a long process after the initial idea of a possible visit. The Pope discusses it with his advisors, listening to them attentively, reflects and prays a lot over it. “Then the decision comes from inside, from the gut, almost spontaneously, but like a ripe fruit,” the Pope said. “It's a long journey.” Some decisions are difficult, others are easier he said.
International Eucharistic Congress
The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest was initially scheduled for September 2020. Due to the pandemic, the Vatican’s Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses and the Hungarian bishops decided to postpone it to this year.
A Eucharistic Congress is a gathering of clergy, religious and lay faithful for the purpose of celebrating and glorifying the Holy Eucharist and of seeking the best means to spread its knowledge and love throughout the world. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is one of the principal dogmas of the Catholic faith and is therefore of paramount importance as the most precious treasure that Christ has left to His Church. Hence, the Eucharist is the centre of Catholic worship and the source of Christian piety.
As such, Eucharistic Congresses are organized at the international, national, regional of diocesan levels. The International Eucharistic Congress is convoked by the Pope and decides on a venue proposed by a bishop or by or by a bishops’ conference.
International Eucharistic Congresses have been held around the world since the first one in Lille, France in 1881. This is the second time that it is being held in Hungary. Budapest hosted it last time in 1938.