Pope Francis will be first Pontiff to attend International Eucharistic Congress in 21 years

THE 52ND INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS will bring together Catholics from all over the world to deepen their understanding of the importance of the Eucharist and reflect on the mission of the Catholic Church to make God’s love present in the world. This year, the Congress will be held September 5-12 in the Hungarian capital Budapest.

The theme of Congress is taken from the concluding words of Psalm 87:7: “All my springs are in you.” Originally due to be held in 2020, the Congress was postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 “The aim of this encounter is to make known and encourage love for the Eucharist, the sacred Mystery of our Faith,” explains Regina Lynch, director of projects for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We believe that this Congress is a prophetic one in a time of pandemic. It may be very important for the life of the Church, given that COVID-19 has in many places made it difficult for people to attend Mass and Eucharistic devotions,” she adds.

A priest lifts the host in Brazil

“We believe that the promotion of the Eucharistic life among the faithful is fundamental for the life of the community. It means bringing Christ to the communities. In many countries the faithful have a genuine longing to receive the Eucharist and feel its presence, and together with others they face many problems – the lack of religious freedom, insecurity due to civil and military conflicts, long distances combined with a lack of transport, and also poverty—many communities lack the resources to build a place of worship or even to support their priests,” reflects Lynch.

This is the reason why ACN supports many projects supplying the necessary means to facilitate the presence of the Eucharist, “for example, providing a motorcycle, so that the priest can travel to celebrate Mass in a remote mission station, or the construction of a chapel in an isolated desert region or in the high mountains. This support can take many forms, from something very practical, such as a host-making machine, to something more long-term, such as the formation of future priests.”

“In their case it is the lack of means or lack of liberty; in the West, we very often encounter a lack of faith. Too much stress, lack of time, or indifference towards the Eucharist. For this reason, it is very important to pray that the Congress may bring about an interior renewal for Europe and the West,” Lynch concludes. 

For his part, in his message inviting people to take part in the Congress, Cardinal Péter Erdő, the Hungarian Primate, expresses his confidence that “God will never abandon His people. He is with us throughout history and is waiting for us for a happy encounter in eternity. May we be able to grasp the opportunities for every encounter with Him here on earth as well! We have an appointment with Christ in Budapest; may He be the shining companion of our lives; may He be the one who brings optimism and joy to our lives!”

In recent years the Congress has been chaired by a delegate appointed expressly for the occasion by the Holy See. However, in Budapest it will be the first time in 21 years that a Pope will be present to celebrate the closing Mass Sept. 12. The last time a Pontiff was present was in the year 2000, the jubilee year, when the Congress was held in Rome.

Following the official announcement of the Holy Father’s visit to Budapest, Cardinal Erdő declared: “The community of the Catholic faithful is awaiting the arrival of the Holy Father with great joy and love. We pray that his visit may be for us a sign of hope and a new beginning, as the situation of the epidemic begins to diminish.”

The last papal visit to Hungary was 25 years ago, when Pope John Paul II travelled to Budapest, en route to Pannonhalma and Győr.

Among those who will be giving personal testimonies during the days of prayer, catechesis, and reflection, are cardinals from countries where Christians live their faith in conditions of great difficulty—for example, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako from Iraq, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Emeritus Archbishop of Abuja and former president of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference, and Cardinal Charles Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon and president of the Myanmar Bishops’ Conference.

—Maria Lozano & Maria Teresa Diestra