Card. Ouellet: IEC2012 an extraordinary moment for Irish Church

2012-06-05 Vatican Radio

“My hope is that the Church in Ireland be really strengthened in its identity as communion of God among people and through this testimony of others who are coming to visit and to share the same faith together with the people in Ireland”, says Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and Papal Legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland. He will be presiding at the Opening Mass in the RDS Arena this Sunday June 10th, but before his departure for Ireland spoke to Emer McCarthy about his hopes for the Congress and the Church in Ireland. Listen:

“I think this is the first hope of a Eucharistic Congress to strengthen the bond of love in the Church, faith and love”. “Since the last decade has been so difficult in terms of the tragedies, of sexual abuse, of this crisis at the level of society of the economy, there is a real need of reconciliation of forgiveness and new dialogue among all people of Ireland, among the bishops and the laity, among the priests and the religious. There is a need of a new dialogue. We must turn the page on these difficult times – not to forget them, rather to keep them in mind so as not to repeat them – and to ask God, in His loving mercy to renew us”.

“Most of the participants will be from Ireland, which is normal, but there will be a good number of people coming from the whole world. A Eucharist Congress is the Universal Church that is uniting in a local Church to turn to God and ask Him for all kinds of blessings which we need for the path of the Church. I am convinced that this will be an extraordinary moment in the Church in Ireland and the starting point of a new path which will be followed also by other initiatives in the wake of this gift of God”.

Q: Four years ago as Archbishop of Quebec, you hosted the 49th International Eucharistic Congress. You described it as a “turning point” in the life of the Church in your nation. Can speak to us about that experience and explain why it was a turning point?

“Our Church in Quebec has been going through secularisation for several decades it needed a sort of grace of hope and renewal and the Eucharistic Congress did bring more unity to the local Church, more collaboration among bishops and priests, religious and lay people and also it did contribute to promoting charisms and to strengthening the bond with the Universal Church. And concretely, we had the creation of two seminaries afterwards to welcome priestly vocations, a minor seminary and also major seminary which joined the diocesan seminary. This other seminary, Redemptoris Mater, will give priests to other diocese in Canada or elsewhere. This was a fruit of the Eucharistic Congress, that’s why I think it was a turning point. We had thought that the Catholic faith and its central message was somehow depassè [outdated] in society, but it has proved to be still alive and promising for the future”.

Q: In many countries worldwide Mass attendance is dwindling and International Eucharistic Congresses fail to attract the same global participation as other meetings such as World Youth Days and Meetings of the Family. How would you explain this apparent decline in awareness among believers about the centrality of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith?

“I think we need to look at these global manifestations together as one complimenting the other. The Eucharistic Congress has been a prophetic testimony of the Church for more than a century now and it has acquired new characteristic with Vatican II were we have strengthened not only the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, but the link between the Eucharistic Celebration and the Church as communion, as fraternity. This is part of the new development of the Eucharistic Congress after the Second Vatican Council, it is very positive, it does include still the testimony of adoration because the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ in our midst that is nurturing the Church and strengthening His Body through the Bread of Life. We have to see together these events; the Eucharistic Congress is the interior mystery of the Church, the spiritual mystery of the Church. The Youth gathering [WYD] and the family gathering is more the testimony of the specific aim of evangelisation. We have to hand on the faith to the new generations, so the Church is giving this message to the whole world, calling together the youth to be nourished by the Eucharist and experience also the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And the same thing with the Family gathering, there is an extraordinary need of renewal of relationships, we suffer so many fractures and divisions and broken hearts in the life of families. The Church is calling together the Families to give a testimony of hope to the world and to invite the world not to forget that this is the cell of society and the first cell of the Church. That’s the basic reality of communion in human life and in the life of the Church. Together the three events bring the same message: we are fed by the presence of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist, who is till calling the youth to follow him and the families to be a domestic church a real sanctuary of the Divine Life in the world”.

Q: The 50th Congress coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Ecclesiology of communion has often been declared the vision of Vatican II. This will also be the focus of a Theology Symposium in Maynooth ahead of the Congress at which you will deliver the keynote address. Do you feel that the theme of communion, unity, in the Church has been sufficiently explored since Vatican II?
“The Synod of Bishops of 1985 expressed the message of Vatican II in these terms; that the theology of communion is the fundamental inspiration and expression of Vatican II. So when we look over the last 5 decades we see that there is an extraordinary development of communion in the Church, not only in bringing together the Papal Primacy, but also the collegiality of bishops – the development of the synods of bishops for example – and also at the local level, the development of structures of participation, the development of councils of priests, of lay people and at the level of the parish. These structures in the life of the Church are also expressions of the ecclesiology of communion.

I think one of these developments is precisely the message of Familiaris consortio in 1981, the development of the Church consciousness in the family, in the family, where the faith is transmitted and where there is prayer together and a link to the Holy Eucharist in the Parish and principally, fundamentally the Sacrament of Marriage as the bond between a man and woman that is consecrated and sanctified by a gift of the Spirit which transforms this relationship into not only a basic cell of society, but also a basic cell of the Church. This is also an important development of the ecclesiology of communion.

Obviously there remains other aspects be discussed, in terms of ecumenical relations for example, the reflection on baptism with the communities of the reform, the reflection on Eucharistic ecclesiology with the Orthodox. This is something that is already in place, for 40 years we have had ecumenical dialogue that have been an expression of the ecclesiology of communion and has brought new ideas, new accents and also perspective for better collaboration between the Roman Curia and the local churches, the bishop’s conferences and so on…

The field is open for more reflection and dialogue on how to embody the gift of God which is the gift of the Trinitarian Communion to humanity through the Church. We should never loose sight of this mystery. The Church is not just a society like other societies. It is the mystery of the Divine Communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is shared with us through faith, baptism and the sacraments. There is no point of comparison in the life of the world, because that’s the Divine presence which is there, sacramentaly palpable, entrusted to us to be shared through mission and dialogue with others”.

Q: Have you ever been to Ireland before? And if so what have your impressions been?

“I was in Ireland in 2001 and 2002, twice, for ecumenical dialogue. I remember vividly the discovery of the situation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the two parts of the island. And I saw that it was very meaningful, this effort for dialogue and reconciliation there. But I noticed that, if I compare it with my own country, that the level of secularisation was not as strong as I experienced in my own country. This, for me, was good news. The participation of the faithful in Mass attendance was higher than in my country and there were still some vocations. So I cam back with a good impression. It was also and occasion to discover the glorious history of fidelity of Ireland, to its Catholic faith and also its contribution to the missionary activity of the Church. It is an extraordinary history and they should be proud of this past which still has an impact on the present and is always part of the heritage that we should meditate upon and look for new energies for the renewal of the Church nowadays in Ireland”.