2012-06-11 Vatican Radio“The Church in Ireland is a Church on the path to renewal”, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, as he opened the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in the Irish capital Sunday, very much setting the tone for a week of events. Listen:
It was a clear message to the faithful from Ireland’s four ecclesial provinces who were joined by thousands of pilgrims from overseas Sunday afternoon in the Royal Dublin Society Arena – it was the good news they needed to hear.
Flags from the Solomon Islands, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the US, Vietnam, China, Australia and Europe fluttered in the sea breeze as 40 Cardinals, some 200 bishops and priests processed behind the book of the Gospels for the first celebration of the Eucharist in the week long Congress.
The celebration began with the unveiling of the “Healing Stone” at the foot of the altar Upon it’s granite surface a prayer had been inscribed, written by a survivor of clerical sex abuse. Archbishop Martin stood before it as a young women recited the prayer as silence pervaded the arena, followed by lengthy applause.
Archbishop Martin, recalled all those who suffered abuse and “who still today bear the mark of that abuse and may well carry it with them for the rest of their lives”. “In a spirit of repentance, let us remember each of them in the silence of our hearts”.
But Archbishop Martin also had a reminder for the Catholics of Ireland, particularly those voices within the Church and wider society who in recent times have been demanding reform of the Church and some of its key teachings. He said “The Church is not ours to redesign; it is gift that we receive from the Lord with the guidance throughout history of the Holy Spirit and following the example of Mary and the saints”.
Mass was presided by Pope Benedict XVI’s personal representative to the Congress, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. In his homily he also spoke of the “suffering” and “serious challenges to the faith” within the Irish Church.
“Every Sunday …we go to church to meet the Risen Lord…by partaking in the Holy Eucharist” he said. “It may seem in the world’s eyes that we gather for social reasons or according to our cultural and religious traditions, but in fact we are called together by the Lord Himself”.
Cardinal Ouellet also reached out to those people who feel themselves to be on the margins of the Church. “Christ’s unique sacrifice offers salvation ti each and every human being”, he said “We do not know, nor do we have to know, whether some or many will refuse His grace in the end”.
He said: “At these gatherings we come as we are, poor sinners, and we may not always have the proper disposition to receive communion. But…everyone is able to live what is called a “spiritual communion””.
“Let us be aware of the unfathomable gift of the Holy Eucharist. God deserves much more adoration and gratitude for this gift of love”.
Indeed, the gratitude of the Irish gathered in the Dublin Arena Sunday was palpable. Gratitude for the sight of young and energetic men and women religious milling about in the crowds, a rare sight in the Ireland of today. Gratitude for the African pilgrims who entertained the assembly in song and dance in the lead up to the Mass. Gratitude for the 30 boys and girls from Austria, a visible presence of the young Church, ‘a breath of fresh air’ as one elderly lady put it.
Gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for this opportunity, in the midst of suffering, to experience the healing and comfort that only the Eucharist in communion with Christ and with one another can bring.