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International Eucharistic Congress kicks off Sunday in Budapest

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

The Hungarian capital Budapest at sunrise. / ZGPhotography via Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 4, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The International Eucharistic Congress kicks off Sunday with an opening Mass with a 1,000-strong choir and First Communions in the center of Budapest.

The congress is a celebration of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with participants from across the world.

The tradition began in France in 1881 and has grown into an international Catholic event, alternating host countries nearly every four years for the past 140 years.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress is taking place on Sept. 5-12 in the capital of Hungary. Here are some of the highlights:

Opening Mass in Heroes’ Square

The congress will begin at 3 p.m. local time on Sunday, Sept. 5, in Heroes’ Square with an opening ceremony including a performance by a choir of 1,000 singers.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco will then offer the opening Mass in the square starting at 4 p.m.

The Mass will be attended by students from Hungary’s Catholic schools, some of whom will receive First Communion.

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco at the end of an audience - . Vatican Media / ACI Group
Pope Francis greets Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco at the end of an audience – . Vatican Media / ACI Group

Exhibition on the persecution of Christians

An exhibition on the persecution of Christians around the world will also open in cooperation with the Hungarian National Museum and Hungary Helps, the country’s humanitarian assistance program for persecuted Christians.

Speaking ahead of the congress, Regina Lynch, director of projects for the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said: “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 as a result of 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.”

Cardinal speakers from five continents

More than 25 cardinals and bishops will take part in the week of events at the main congress venue, the Hungexpo Budapest Congress and Exhibition Center.

The event’s program lists cardinals from five continents as leaders of the congress’ morning prayers, catechesis, testimonies, and workshops. Scheduled speakers include:

  • Brazilian Cardinal Joao Tempesta on Sept. 6
  • Canadian Cardinal Gérald Lacroix on Sept. 7
  • Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako on Sept. 7
  • Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo on Sept. 8
  • Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan on Sept. 9
  • Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka on Sept. 10

Cardinal Robert Sarah will offer a Mass at the Church of the Holy Angels in Gazdagrét on Sept. 8 and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg will celebrate Mass on Sept. 10.

The program also includes lay Catholic speakers such as Mary Healy, a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and Barbara Heil, an American mother of eight who converted to Catholicism after serving as an Evangelical missionary in 55 countries.

New Mass setting in Romani language

Among its daily liturgies, the congress will also feature a Mass setting in Lovari, a language spoken by the Romani people in Hungary.

The new Mass setting, known as “Le Devleske,” will be heard at a Mass offered on Sept. 9 at the Hungexpo center.

Candlelight Procession

On Saturday, Sept. 11, Cardinal Péter Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest will offer Mass in Kossuth Square, home to the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building, followed by a candlelight procession to Heroes’ Square.

The cardinal told CNA in February that he was convinced that the congress would be “a great sign of hope for the Catholics all around the world” following the pandemic.

A view of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary. Alexey Elfimov via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0).
A view of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary. Alexey Elfimov via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0).

Closing Mass with Pope Francis

The event will culminate on Sept. 12 with a closing Mass offered by Pope Francis in Heroes’ Square at 11:30 a.m local time.

Pope Francis will be the first pope to take part in an International Eucharistic Congress since the year 2000.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ongoing pandemic has also had an effect on the number of Catholics who are able to travel to the international gathering.

Bishops in the Philippines had intended to send a delegation of 500 Catholics to Hungary, but instead opted to hold an online national Eucharistic congress in solidarity with the Budapest meeting.

Archbishop José Palma of Cebu still plans to fly from the Philippines to attend the congress, making him the speaker who will travel the greatest distance to the event, according to organizers.

Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), Budapest, Hungary. Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0.
Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), Budapest, Hungary. Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0.

Hungary has a population of 9.8 million people, 62% of whom are Catholic. The country, which borders Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia, last hosted the Eucharistic Congress in 1938.

A hymn from the 1938 congress will be used again as the official anthem of this year’s event, according to Cardinal Péter Erdő, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest.

He noted that the hymn gave “devout Catholics, Hungarians, strength during the war, as well as later in the decades of communism and oppression.”

“The Catholic community is waiting for the arrival of the Holy Father in great joy and love. We are praying for his visit to be the sign of hope and a new beginning after the abatement of the pandemic,” Erdő said.

The International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest will be broadcast by EWTN.

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    • “Nonessential?” Some might be reminded, instead, of Nicaea (A.D. 325)…

      From Nicaea we gained the understanding that true religion—faith in the person of Christ—had to prevail over political accommodation (one-worldism?) within a dividing Empire (post-modernity?), and over any merely philosophical monotheism (“fraternity” when misunderstood as a least common denominator?). We learned that the perennial Church (neither Theodosius or cafeteria-Catholic Bidenism) was the maker of her own decisions.

      And, later at the follow-up Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381), that the Truth is not constructed on the run by ingenious human invention, but rather “…there exists first the experience of prayer, which, in turn, rests on the SACRAMENT, that is, on the experience of God that was communicated to [viz, received by] the apostles and that continues to exist [already!] in the Church…

      “…the experience of Jesus Christ himself, who could make God known to us ONLY [caps added] because God was known to him.” The Holy Spirit, too, is of the very nature of a Triune God. And, with SYNODALITY in mind, “The mission of the Spirit brings the salvific work of Christ near to men of all times BUT [caps added] never replaces it […]

      “Today, too, the Church cannot be saved by compromise and accommodation or by mere theorizing but only by self-reflection and a depth of faith that opens the door to the Holy Spirit and his unifying power [….] the strongest word of hope that can be conceived.”

      Taking the long view, how much does the turbulence following the Second Vatican Council simply REENACT the turbulence following the Council of Nicaea? Even to the prediction by Cardinal Francis George that his successors would be imprisoned and even martyred? This, from post-Nicaea: “Many had gone into exile and had died there. Others had suffered at home rather than exile. They had been stoned and tortured; those who survived could indeed say of themselves that they bore the wounds of Christ in their bodies (cf. Gal 6:17)” (citations from Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” 1987).

      RATHER THAN “nonessential,” instead the only thing that is truly essential! The “hermeneutics of continuity.” Might we even discern that the Eucharistic Congress, rather than any later step in the “synodal process,” IS the most “essential” opening and message for the upcoming Synod on Synodality?

      • AFTERTHOUGHT: According to atheist Richard Dawkins, the universe is self-creating. A “dialogue” between non-existence and existence!

        According to others, a synod likewise is self-inventing…acting like a parliament but not quite a parliament! As a mere lay-peasant, I wonder, therefore, what is the DIFFERENCE between a consultative-synodal-Church and a consultative-churchly-synod (lower case). I propose that in the worst case, the first has largely lost its voice in the modern world, and that the second will not shut up in its bubble universe.

        Instead of the INCOMPLETE DICHOTOMY between the top-down leadership and bottom-up consensus, how about FIRST—from the inside-out sacramentality? You, know, the non-Marxist Christ-the-King thing and the Magisterium? But, this degree of opening-up implies clarity about a God who is OTHER than ourselves. And, places limits, precisely, on what things can be subject to “resolutions” or rendered accommodationist/ambiguous in the name of “consensus.”

        To have simply played the game—is this already to have lost too much? Or, can it be done right? Unlike the China fiasco.

        Perhaps “synodal way” in Germania offers a CLUE—already challenging rudimentary sexual morality, leering after invalid female ordinations, and turning valid ordinations into a functionalist game of short-time musical chairs. And, advocating intercommunion, as if there were no fatal rupture five centuries ago to Christ’s commission and the Apostolic Succession (now with an antithetical bottom-up congregational model and sola Scriptura, absent the assembly through/with/in (!) the Eucharist as a symbol of the Real Presence which also IS that which it symbolizes).

        Been there, done that. At least check out the nationwide Call to Action in the United States, also, back in 1975-6, on what NOT to do. But, hey, in the post-steadfast and experiential Church, why learn anything from past experience?

  1. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk.22.2O) The idea of the New Covenant (capitalized in the AV 1611 King James Bible in Hebrews, then printed in lower case letters in the revised King James Bible in Hebrews), is central to the Gospel. It is based on Jer.31.31-34. So why is it that the emphasis is only on the bread, and that the New Covenant is not being preached? This is faulty theology. We have an agreement — the Covenant relationship — with God that our salvation depends upon. The idea of the Covenant with God is ancient. Jeremiah’s New Covenant holds that everyone will come to the knowledge of God. This theology really needs to be taught more clearly. Archbishop Vigano explained that the institutional bureaucracy of the Church is often at odds with the traditions of the Church. I think that this is a perfect example, that extends to most modern Christian denominations. Those who cling to the King James Bible are using a text that retains the Early Modern English translation at Luke 22.2O of the “cup in the new testament,” which is not quite an accurate translation of the Greek, and follows Jerome’s Latin Vulgate — just as every early English translation of the Bible did. Because of this mistranslation, the idea of the New Covenant seems to be lost on those denominations that swear by the KJV text. So, the Eucharist is very important. What about living “on every word of God”?

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