Photo: MTI

Cardinal Erdo: 1.2 billion Catholics on five continents 'watching us'

52nd Intl Eucharistic Congress opens in Budapest

"The Eucharist is the source for the life and mission of Christians," Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, said addressing opening mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest on Sunday.

The cardinal prayed to God that participants, “especially during the week of the congress”, would feel “Christ is with us at the Eucharist, and he will not abandon the Church, peoples or mankind”.

Erdo welcomed Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, the first celebrant of the opening mass, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the foreign affairs office of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as 1,200 children receiving first communion.

Bagnasco told the gathering that “Christ’s light radiates through the Church despite all the weaknesses and sins of its members”. “You are not alone in the middle of a hostile universe … wherever you are, God will look down on you with his love,” the cardinal said, adding that “the Eucharist will overcome any solitude, distance and indifference”.

The opening mass was concelebrated by 100 bishops and some 300 priests. The participants filled Heroes’ Square and a part of Andrassy Avenue.

The event was attended by President Janos Ader and First Lady Anita Herczegh, Aniko Levai, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s wife, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen, Andras Zs. Varga, the president of the supreme court, Human Resources Minister Miklos Kasler, Chief Prosecutor Peter Polt, and other dignitaries.

Between Monday and Friday, lectures on Christian subjects will be offered all day at the Hungexpo grounds, while concerts and other performances will be held in Szell Kalman and Ors vezer squares in the afternoons. Concerts, folk dance performances and book shows will also be held in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

The Congress’s closing mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis at Heroes’ Square next Sunday. Hungary is hosting the event for the second time since 1938. Originally scheduled to be held in 2020, the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardinal Erdo: 1.2 billion Catholics on five continents ‘watching us’

Fully 1.2 billion Catholics from five continents “will be watching us over the next few days” when the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress is held, Cardinal P├ęter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, told public radio on Sunday.

Not only is the Congress a big draw for Catholics, but other denominations in Hungary and surrounding countries are also showing interest in “the big Christian meeting” in Budapest, the cardinal said.

“We agree with Eastern Christians on the Eucharist, so we have a common faith,” he said. “There’s a real basis for celebrating it together.”

More than 200,000 people have registered to attend the Congress’s various programmes, though registration is not required for participation in the main events, including the closing Mass to be held by Pope Francis. So far 75,000 faithful have registered for the final event, while various groups have indicated that they will come to Mass without registration, he added.

The head of the Hungarian Catholic Church said that the “statio orbis”, or “Assembly of the World”, led by the pope palpably symbolised the church’s unity.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress starts in the afternoon in Budapest, while closing Mass takes place at Heroes’ Square next Sunday. Hungary is hosting the event for the second time since 1938. Originally scheduled to be held in 2020, the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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