By Lydia O’Kane
The International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest may have been delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but those attending are assured of an exciting programme of events spread over 20 locations throughout the city.
The highlight of the Congress will be the closing Mass presided over by Pope Francis in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square, but each day participants can immerse themselves in prayer meetings, catechesis, testimonies, seminars, Masses and cultural events.
The Congress also includes guest speakers such as Cardinals Louis Raphael Sako from Iraq and Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Québec, the Primate of Canada.
A meeting of humanity
“An International Eucharistic Congress is such a very important event because it deals with all aspects of life,” says Cardinal Lacroix, speaking to Vatican Radio.
“Of course there are very important moments of prayer, of reflection; a time to pray, a time to meet other people also. People from all over the world will be here, so we experience the Church in a new way as we celebrate in many languages, in many cultures and find in the Lord Jesus the source; all life comes from him, so it’s so important to meet. We’re all in tune with the life of the Church in our own regions, in our own countries, but to meet other Christians, other believers from all over the world is such an uplifting experience.”
The Cardinal goes on to say that the Congress is “a meeting of humanity; Jesus brings us together and helps us build a family, built in unity, in love, charity, and it opens our hearts to others and to other realities also. We’ll listen to conferences but also to witnesses, people who will come and share their experiences, what they live in their own country, that’s very important also to share.”
Memories of '76 Congress
Cardinal Lacroix has participated in many Eucharistic Congresses over the years and he remembers with great fondness the first time he participated in one, when he was just eighteen years old. He recalls that his father and mother decided the family would all go to the Congress in Philadelphia in 1976, where they were living at the time. “I’m the oldest of seven children and we all went with my parents in a little tent to spend the week in Philadelphia; that was my first experience. It was overwhelming to pray with thousands of people and live all of these liturgies and cultural events and meeting people from all over the world.”
The Cardinal says he hopes to continue participating in International Eucharistic Congresses for many years to come “because it’s a place where we come to the Source, where we come to the Lord as humanity, as Church and allow him to renew us; give us more strength so we can continue living in the midst of this very troubled world and find hope.”
“I come because I need this personally, but I also come to share this joy with others,” he says.
The theme of Peace and Reconciliation
During the Congress, Cardinal Lacroix is addressing participants on the theme of peace, under the title: “The Eucharist, an inexhaustible source of Peace and Reconciliation.” The Cardinal notes that the Eucharist has been an inexhaustible source of peace and reconciliation in his personal life. He goes on to say that by sharing the Word of God, by sharing in prayer and sharing in the Eucharist, “I found new strength, new hope to get up and continue my mission to continue to serve the Lord and his faithful people, and serve humanity.”
Asked if having an International Eucharistic Congress is more important than ever at a time of a global pandemic and conflict in many countries throughout the world, Cardinal Lacroix says, “In all times of history it’s important to come together as baptized believers… but of course in more difficult times, like the ones we are experiencing now it is so helpful, and it’s such a gift to be able to get this injection of hope in our veins and in our hearts, in our souls, to see other brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis is coming to Budapest to preside over the Statio Orbis or closing Mass of this 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. Speaking about the visit, the Cardinal says the Pope “is so sensitive to the suffering in the world and the need for hope, and the need to be united in faith that maybe he decided to come here because he knows that this is a very very difficult time in our history and that God’s people need a Shepherd who will give them hope, that will direct their sight to the Lord and ask Him to continue to walk with us and bless us and give us strength, courage to confront all the challenges that we need to confront right now.”
He goes on to say that “this is a true blessing,” adding that people in Hungary are very enthusiastic and proud to welcome the Holy Father.
Cardinal Lacroix says he is hoping to take back to Canada “an Archbishop filled with more faith, and more hope and more joy, and with a desire to continue to serve.” He is also hoping that this experience in Budapest will help those returning home to continue “to live and share the joy of the Lord’s living presence in our midst, and to remind people that all our Springs are in Him; He is the Source of life.”