Liverpool at the Eucharistic Congress

The Closing of the Congress: Sunday 17 June 2012

172391480_17June201202.jpg 1797470884_17June201201.jpg 1120004425_17June201203.jpg On this glorious evening I am looking out over the expanse of the Wicklow Mountains from the windows of Dublin airport waiting for the flight home writes Father John McLoughlin.

Veronica Murphy and I have been reflecting on the week and the wonderful and powerful conversations we have had with so many people.  The Statio Orbis Mass began at 3.00 pm in Croke Park this afternoon.  Many of the pilgrims were in the stadium by 1.00 pm but because All Hallows is close by we were able to have lunch at 12.30 then walk over to the stadium and in our places by 2.00pm.  The 82,000 strong congregation made the atmosphere in the stadium truly electric.  Before Mass Bishop Arthur Roche and I had a brief chat about the wonderful week we had just experienced. Archbishop Bernard Longley also came by as did Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Metropolitan Archbishop of Québec and Primate of Canada: ‘Baptism’ he called out, with a glint in his eye.  He explained to the priest he was with that we had a great new baptism resource in Liverpool, ‘but as yet,’ he said, ‘it is not in French!’

There was a carnival atmosphere in the stadium before Mass.  The presenters interviewed various people about their extraordinary faith journeys these were interspersed with musical performances from the Three Irish Tenors, Celine Byrne, and The Three Priests.  I managed to say a quick hello to Father Martin O’Hagan whom I know well.  The Three Priests will be performing in Liverpool later this year.

The Mass was wonderful and the Papal Legate spoke in his homily about the importance of not being afraid to live out the seed of faith received in baptism.

At the end of Mass we watched a video message from the Pope Benedict XVI.  The Holy Father spoke of the faith received in Baptism, strengthened in Confirmation brings us to Eucharist.  And the Eucharist, the Holy Father said, is an encounter with the risen Lord.  Recalling the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II the Holy Father said that much had been achieved through the liturgical renewal but more was needed.  Pope Benedict said ‘Active Participation’ is more than being busy with external activity it calls us to a deeper participation in and with the risen Lord.  The Holy Father then announced that the 51st Eucharistic Congress in 2016 will be in the archdiocese of Cebu in the Philippines.  At this news there was raptures applause.  One of the Filipino Bishops on behalf of the Filipino Bishops Conference thanked everyone and welcomed us to the Philippines in advance of 2016.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin then spoke of the Congress as being more than an event: it is to be an opportunity for new Evangelisation.  The Papal Legate then bestowed on us the Apostolic Blessing and the Mass concluded with a rapturous ‘Glory, Glory Halleluiah!’ after the deacon had proclaimed: ‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives.’   ‘THANKS BE TO GOD.’

Read Cardinal Marc Oullet's Homily at Mass

More pictures from the Congress here

Day Seven at the Congress: Saturday 16 June 2012

It is a week ago today since we arrived and set up our stand and before the end of the day we will be packing everything up writes Father John McLoughlin.

Yesterday I ended my report with a reflection that has been on my mind these last few days.  I wish to expound on it a little as I write this penultimate report from the Eucharistic Congress 2012.  After the Working Party for the Sacraments of Initiation got to work in Liverpool in 2008 a major change occurred for us in January 2010 when we reflected on the gospel parable of the rich man at his table and poor Lazarus at his gate.  We reflected at the time on the fact that so many in our archdiocese are hungry for God just as Lazarus was hungry for food from the rich man’s table.  It is this gospel passage that has been on my mind these last few days as I have come to realise this week that there are so many hungry for God beyond the gate of our archdiocese – and these must be fed also.  In some small way our sacramental resources have provided a morsel or two which have been spread far and wide.   And through what we have shared may our archdiocese be blest so that when our pilgrimage is done we may know no gulf in the world to come but rather with Lazarus rest safely in the bosom of our Father.

We arrived a little earlier than usual this morning because Saturday’s timetable is slightly different from that of the rest of the week.   The theme for today’s feast is 'Exploring and celebrating the Word of God' which nourishes our Communion: Mary as the 'Hearer of the Word' par excellence.

The Papal Legate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, has travelled to the west of Ireland to the shrine of our Lady of Knock to celebrate a special Congress Mass at the shrine for the feast.  I feel a sense of joy at this visit because Knock is my ancestral home and my paternal grandmother travelled from Knock to Dublin for the last Eucharistic Congress to be held in Dublin in 1932.  At the same time my maternal grandmother travelled from the Archdiocese of Liverpool with my mother who was aged just 12 years at the time.  How grateful I am that I could be here eighty years later.

The stand has been busy again today we had visits from Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, who thanked us for our presence at the Congress.  My sister Anne came to wish us a fond farewell.  Anne is a Sister of Charity of St Paul, the Apostle.  She is Chaplain at St Vincent’s Hospital less than a mile from the RDS.  Just as we were packing up Archbishop Longley of Birmingham stopped by to say hello and to hear about our experience this week.  Clare Ward also came by earlier to interview Veronica about the week but also about the new Baptism resource.

Mass today was celebrated at 12.00 noon by Cardinal Robert Sarah (President of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ at the Holy See).  In his homily the Cardinal spoke about Mary’s ‘fiat’: Mary’s ‘YES’ to God.  He told us we often think of this just once at the time of the Annunciation but there is another ‘fiat’: Mary’s ‘YES’ to God at the foot of the cross.  Both are a surrender to the powerful will of God which is beyond our fathoming.  Mary then shows us how to say ‘YES’ to God in good times and bad.   Just before Holy Communion the heavens opened like never before, and we were wet.  The rain was so heavy the Cardinal had to move back from the altar because the rain was blowing into the Sanctuary.  At the end of Mass just at the blessing the Cardinal made everyone laugh and he got a rapturous applause when he said: ‘Having just received a shower of divine grace let us now receive God’s blessing...’   They say that if it rains in Knock during your pilgrimage it is a blessing because Our Blessed Lady appeared during a shower: I couldn’t help but think maybe just this once Mary has sent the blessing to Dublin for today’s feast.

And so we packed up.  Tomorrow we attend the Statio Orbis at 3.00 pm in Croke Park: the 82,200 capacity stadium.  It is walking distance from All Hallows which is just as well because parking will be difficult.  After Mass it will be a quick step back to the college and on to the airport for the 8.30pm flight – say a prayer we make it.

Read Cardinal Robert Sarah's Homily at the Liturgy of Reconciliation

More pictures from the Congress here

Day Six at the Congress: Friday 15 June 2012

462529600_15June201201.jpg 1505859317_15June201202.jpg 1967083382_15June201203.jpg Another good All Hallows College breakfast to start the day, after which it was off to the RDS to drop off Maureen Knight and Veronica Murphy before taking Stephen Atherton over to the airport to catch his flight back to Liverpool writes Father John McLoughlin.

I was just back at the RDS from the airport in time to join the line for the seminar talks.  Today’s theme was 'Exploring suffering and celebrating Communion through healing' so I particularly wanted to attend Archbishop Kelly’s Seminar on ‘Viaticum – food for the journey – waybread’.  Typically several hundred were stood in line for just one hundred seats.  The organisers of this event should surely be quite shamed of their lack of management of the seminars and workshops because it is the one thing that has consistently caused much upset to a lot of people who have travelled great distances to hear some of the speakers.  In line waiting to be let into the Archbishop’s talk was Canon Pat MacNally from St Jude’s, Wigan.  It was great to see him.  I managed to meet up again with Canon McNally after Mass for a photo.  At least with Archbishop Patrick they allowed his seminar to be run twice and it was agreed that the second time it should be for those who had come under the auspices of the International Deaf Foundation.  The Archbishop’s seminar was the first and only seminar I managed to attend all week.

The Archbishop presented a very personal, theological and profoundly pastoral approach to how we ought to think about those stages of life which lead us home to the heart of God: paradise.  The Archbishop reminded that anointing at baptism, confirmation, ordination is for service so too is anointing of the sick and dying.  For the sick are not to be looked upon as simply those who should receive from our hands because they too have something to give to us because we are all called to both give and receive throughout the whole of life.  When we minister to the sick they receive from us but equally we receive at the same time so much from their hands.

I had a notion that today being Friday the stand might not be so busy: how wrong can a person be?  We had visits today from so many people.  Wynn Terry from Warrington appeared seated in her wheelchair with a group of friends.  Wynn is a stalwart of the Light and Peace Cancer Care Lourdes pilgrimage and she is also known to many of you who would have travelled with her on the archdiocesan pilgrimage.  We had visits from seminarians and staff from Allan Hall (London).  A seminarian from Dublin who had spent his first year with the English and Welsh students at our seminary at Valladolid (Spain).  Archbishop Kelly fresh from his seminar came again briefly to man the stand.  We had visits from Archbishop Nichols of Westminster, Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, and Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton.   Archbishop Martin William Currie of St Johns, Newfoundland also came to hear of the baptism resource and to purchase a copy.  Several baptism packs were sold to catechists and priest from the Dublin diocese who drove in specifically to purchase them having heard about them the night before from friends and colleagues.  It was great to have Maureen Knight with us today considering her work around the ministry of healing, death and bereavement.  Eventually at lunch time which was mid-afternoon I met up with my good friend Father John O’Leary of Westminster: a quick ‘pit-stop’ and back to the stand so others could eat.  Mass this evening was celebrated by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.   His homily was quite profound and it was interrupted several times with spontaneous applause. He spoke of the importance of suffering as a means to healing and redeeming others.  It was a long Mass due to the rite of the Anointing of the Sick.  What made it so long was that the organisers failed to explain that the anointing was for the sick which resulted in many more people besides the sick being anointed.  A great opportunity to offer some catechesis around the anointing of the sick sadly missed.  This being said it was yet another blest day in which I couldn’t help thinking that our little and beautiful Archdiocese of Liverpool shared from our table the rich pastoral and catechetical resources to those who were hungry for them.  These riches now shared and used in far off lands will help in some small way as a means to strengthen others to pass on the faith and re-echo the story of the Lord to generations yet to come: very humbling.  God be praised.

Read Bishop Derek Byrne's Meditation for Morning Prayer

Read Archbishop Patrick Kelly's Reflection 'Eucharist as Viaticum'

Read Archbishop Fouad Twal's Homily at Mass

Day Five at the Congress: Thursday 14 June 2012

After Mass last night we packed up and went back to All Hallows College to rest which meant we missed the Eucharistic Procession writes Father john McLoughlin.  The organisers expected about ten thousand people to attend but as it turned out the number reached more than twenty thousand.

Today’s the day I have been waiting for.  I have been waiting to hear Cardinal Turkson (President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Holy See).  The Cardinal led the two hour Reconciliation Service this morning at 10.00 am followed by confessions lasting most of the day.   Cardinal Turkson had visited Liverpool a few years ago when he was Archbishop in Ghana for a conference of European and African Bishops.  He is a very powerful speaker and a great catechist.  His homily was based on the story of a Religious Sister having to come to terms with her hatred of those who had murdered her parents and family during the genocide in Rwanda and how she met the murderer in prison and discovered it was none other than a neighbour of the family whom she had known very well.  He had to discover how to ask for mercy and she had to discover how to grant pardon.  The Cardinal then brought this story to that of St Paul reminding us that St Paul was the persecutor of the Church who had to ask for mercy and yet he is the one who in his letter to the Corinthians tells us to be joyful, perfect and at peace in the Lord.  The Cardinal then spent a considerable amount of time unpicking what this might mean in and for our lives.  I could have sat all day and listened to him.

On my way to the stadium from our stand I bumped into Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and escorted him to the sacristy.  I promised the Cardinal our prayers for the repose of the soul of his brother who had only just died a few days ago.  At the end of the Reconciliation Service I met up with the Cardinal again talking to Archbishop Nichols who was attending the Congress with a group from the Diocese of Westminster.

Back at the Liverpool Stand it was full steam ahead.  Archbishop Patrick arrived as I was talking to a young Capuchin also called Kelly.  Liam Kelly had come to the Stand when he saw ‘Liverpool’ to enquire if we knew his former teacher in Rome: Mgr Peter Fleetwood.  We were delighted to inform Liam that Mgr Peter Fleetwood had given the Baptism resource its Nihil Obstat.  Archbishop Kelly and I went off for pizza so as to return and relieve Veronica Murphy and Steve Atherton so they could have their lunch.  During lunch Fr Anton Fernandopulle arrived from Huyton at the stall with some parishioners.

The new baptism resource is flying off the shelf.  The Archbishop of Québec arrived and asked me to explain it.  When I had finished and he had bought a pack I told him that we had had two other Canadian Archbishops at the stand the previous day.  ‘I know,’ he said, ‘that’s why I’m here.  They wouldn’t shut up about it all through dinner last night so I had to come and see for myself.’  Then he said, ‘This is great, have you translated it into French?’  ‘No,’ I replied, ‘Not yet!’ (We only launched it in English last Thursday – even I can’t work that quickly.)

Bishop Arthur Roche paid us another visit.  And we had visits from many catechists and priests from across the world.  Father Martin Hogan also appeared to purchase a baptism resource: Martin, a priest of Dublin Archdiocese, taught me scripture many moons ago.  Martin is also known to some of our clergy because he led a day on St Luke during one of our early In-Service Training weeks at Swanwick.  The conversations we have had with people at the stand or passing by have been very uplifting.

Mass this evening was celebrated by Cardinal Sean Brady.  There was a strong Celtic flavour to the music and language of the Mass.  Cardinal Brady’s homily was exceptionally good.  The heavens opened and the rains poured down.  The Pilgrim's Packs which we collected on arrival all contained a rain poncho which was very much appreciated.  I managed to catch a photo of Bishop Terry Drainey (Middlesbrough) and Bishop Kieran Conry (Arundel and Brighton) wearing theirs.

Back at All Hallows at 6.30pm we had just time to change ready for the launch of Mission Today and Tomorrow – an international conference on the future of Mission and Development to be held as a Gathering 2013 Event.  In preparation for this and in celebration of the Eucharistic Congress the Irish Missionary Union and Misean Cara invited us to a ‘Taste of Ireland’ event.  After introducing the Launch Mr Joe Costello TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development and Trade invited us to taste the very best of Irish cuisine served by the very producers of the food we tasted.  This richly served buffet was accompanied by an Irish harpist and Irish dancers.   It was exceptional.  No time to waste for as soon as we finished we drove over to the airport to collect Maureen Knight who joins us for the last leg of this week. Maureen has worked extensively with ministry and catechises surrounding the sick and dying: particularly with her involvement in training bereavement groups and her work on the core team working with lay-led funerals.  The theme tomorrow is 'Exploring suffering and celebrating Communion through healing'.

Read Archbishop Michael Neary's Meditation for Morning Prayer

Read Cardinal Peter Turkson's Homily at the Liturgy of Reconciliation

Read Cardinal Sean Brady's Homily at Mass

See more pictures from the International Eucharistic Congress here

Day Four at the Congress: Wednesday 13 June 2012

Today’s theme explored placing our gifts at the service of Communion through Lay and ordained Ministry writes Father John McLoughlin.  The service of ‘diakonia’ came to mind as Veronica Murphy and I headed off to the airport through the rush hour traffic to collect Mr Stephen Atherton (Justice and Peace Fieldworker) it would have helped to speed up the collection had I remembered that Steve was flying into to Terminal 2 not Terminal 1.

A quick stop at All Hallows College to drop off Steve’s bag and it was onto the RDS.  No sooner had we arrived than our stand was buzzing.  Today we had an array of religious sisters involved in parish and diocesan catechetical ministry: they came to speak with us about our sacramental preparation resources.  I also had a visit from Mr Francis Cousins editor of 'Intercom' magazine.  Thanks to Canon Pat McNally of St Jude's Wigan Francis had heard about our new resources and wanted to write a feature article about all that is happening in Liverpool.

We also had a visit from some clergy from the Diocese of Clogher who asked would we come and speak to their Council of Clergy about our new approach to sacramental preparation if they were able to arrange it.  Archbishop Davies Bohan of the Archdiocese of Regina and Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan (Canada) also stopped by.  This was a great visit, Archbishop Pettipas asked some rigorous questions about the baptism resource but they left happy and very interested with our approach and resources.

Not long after Archbishop Patrick Kelly arrived with Fathers Martin Kershaw and Sean Riley.  Having spent some time talking with people at the stand, including a cousin of mine who was up from Mayo for the day, the Archbishop headed off for something to eat and I joined them seeing it was now time for my lunch break.   The food hall was full so rather than wait a half hour we settled on the idea of sharing a pizza from a food van.  We bumped into Clare Ward (Department of Evangelisation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales) who was interviewing Bishop Regan.  Clare made no time in organising an interview with Archbishop Patrick and Bishop Terry Drainey of Middlesbrough who also arrived at the picnic area at the same time having purchased a hot sandwich from a nearby food van.  On our way back to the Liverpool Stand Archbishop Kelly had a chance meeting with a Bishop from Canada who's mother hailed from Widnes: a small world!.  Back at the stand the others stopped for lunch then it was back to explaining to other visitors the purpose of our Liverpool Stand once again.

Mass this evening was celebrated by His Eminence Oscar Cardinal Rodriguez-Maradiaga SDB (Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras).  He celebrated a beautiful Liturgy in Spanish and perfect and clear English.  Sometime after the Mass a procession of the Blessed Sacrament was planned but Veronica, Steve and I headed back to All Hallows to rest ready to fight another day.  Tomorrow, thank God, will hopefully run smoothly thanks to our secretary, Julie Cassidy, who despatched another box of baptismal resources seeing that we have sold out once again.

Read Archbishop Dermot Clifford's Reflection at Morning Prayer

Read Cardinal Rodriguez-Maradiaga's Homily at Mass

See more pictures from the International Eucharistic Congress here

Day Three at the Congress: Tuesday 12 June 2012

The weather is changed; dark clouds appeared threatening rain all day, but the crowds flooded in writes Father John McLoughlin.  Morning Prayer was led today by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

As the numbers increase each day so it becomes more and more impossible to get into any of the workshops.  One major criticism of the Congress is that the organisers have grossly underestimated the numbers wishing to attend the workshops and seminars.  The halls are far too small for those who wish to attend.  There has been quite a lot of anger and disappointment as people have been turned away after having queued for a considerable amount of time.  Between the four of us we wanted to attend five workshops today but managed to attend only one.  We particularly wished to attend: ‘Communion and Co responsibility coming to life in Pastoral Care’ by Dr Anne Codd and also 'Catechesis of the Good Shepherd' by Ms Jo Culhane.  However, the frustration caused by the disappointment at missing great presentations did not dampen our spirits or distract us from the main task of being here.  Our Liverpool presence was to show solidarity to the Church in Ireland during these recent turbulent years.

In showing such solidarity what I failed to factor in was the appreciation of so many of our work and the willingness to know what we had to offer in terms of resources.  Once again our Liverpool Stand has been inundated all day with visits from representatives from the Diocese of Raphoe in Donegal interested in our new baptism preparation process.  We also had formators from the Diocese of Killaloe, and from the Diocese of Waterford.  We had visitors from several African countries including clergy from Kampala in Uganda.  Bishop John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, also visited.  Bishop Arnold is known to some of the Liverpool clergy having given an impressive talk on homily preparation a few years ago during an In-service Week at Swanwick.   Bishop Joe Toal of Argyll and the Isles also visited the Liverpool stand.  Bishop Joe is also well known to the Liverpool clergy having hosted us several times during our visit to the Royal Scotch College at Salamanca in Spain.

This evening’s liturgy was the celebration of the Eucharist presided over by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, His Eminence Andre Armand Cardinal Vingt-Trois.  The cardinal’s homily in his soft broken English accent reflected the theme of the uselessness of tasteless salt spoken of in the Gospel.  Cardinal Vingt-Trois raised the point that we often accuse society of ridiculing or ignoring the disciples of the Lord today but part of the problem is that we have all too often presented ourselves as not worthy of consideration as the kind of disciples that others would want to follow.  Our relationship with Christ in family life and our witness to the Gospel is a key factor if we want to add flavour to our society just as salt flavours food.

This evening we said a goodbye to Eleanor Lalley and Maureen O’Brien as they head off back to Liverpool.  Tomorrow Stephen Atherton (Justice and Peace Fieldworker) arrives in preparation for Thursday’s theme exploring the challenge of restoring Communion through Justice and Reconciliation.  Archbishop Kelly also arrives tomorrow in time for his presentation on Friday.  Maureen Knight arrives on Thursday evening also in preparation for Friday’s theme which explores suffering and celebrating Communion through Healing.

My personal reflection for today was this: that like the story of the Rich man at his table and poor Lazarus at his gate we have not abandoned others less fortunate at our gate but we have given of ourselves to feed and strengthen others.  We have, please God, encouraged the initiatives of the many people we have met here over these last few days. Oddly in sharing of our riches we feel we ourselves have been very much enriched.

Read Cardinal Keith O'Brien's Meditation for Morning Prayer

Read the Homily of the Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Oullet at Lough Derg

See more pictures from the International Eucharistic Congress here

Day Two at the Congress: Monday 11 June 2012

20988324_DayTwo01.JPG 1001569195_DayTwo02.JPG 559231737_DayTwo03.JPG What an amazing day!   We woke to yet another glorious day of sunshine writes Father John McLoughlin.  After breakfast at All Hallows we had a short meeting to decide who would be doing what and to work out what workshops and talks each of us needed to attend: little did we realise we would not be able to attend anything because of the many people who wanted to speak with us about all we are doing in Liverpool around the Sacraments of Initiation.

We arrived at the RDS at about 9.30 am still wondering what had become of the boxes we had sent out from Liverpool the previous week.  Not long after we arrived at the RDS the secretary at All Hallows College phoned to say our boxes had just been delivered so I drove back to the college to collect them and it wasn’t long before our stand was looking complete.  Our stand is at the end of a terrace with the promotional stand dedicated to the Venerable Mat Talbot sandwiched between Redemptorist Publications and ourselves.  All day we were inundated with visitors: priests and catechists as well as general visitors from New York, Texas, Washington, Boston, South Africa, various parts of Canada, from Dublin, Meath, Mayo, Waterford, Welford, Armagh.  Bishops came to speak with us about the resources having heard from priests of their own diocese who had visited earlier that day.  We had a visit from the Bishop to the Forces, the Archbishop of Tuam, the Bishop of Meath and several Bishops from America.  Many of the English Bishops are due to visit later in the week but Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds came to visit in the afternoon to wish us well.  This is the first main day for the stand and already we have nearly run out of our Baptism Resource packs.  We have sent a message for Steve Atherton our Justice and Peace Fieldworker to bring out more with him.  Steve is arriving Wednesday ready for the Reconciliation, Peace and Justice Day on Thursday.

It has been overwhelming for us to hear such affirmation for our work around sacraments of initiation from diocesan representatives and people from all over the world, and how delighted people are to be able to share in our resources.  Over and over again today we have heard the refrain: ‘this is so great,’ or ‘do you mind if so and so from our diocese contacts you about this.’  Thoroughly exhausted but overjoyed we closed up shop at 7 pm ready for another day tomorrow.  Tomorrow’s focus is Marriage and Family Life and it is a special day for organised visits from the Dublin diocese.   I cannot help but think of the scripture psalm 126: ‘They go out...carrying seed for the sowing; they come back with shouts of joy carrying their sheaves.’  One thing is for sure the seeds we scattered today will grow in far off places known only to the Lord – to God be the glory!

Day One at the Congress: Sunday 10 June 2012

625230211_10June201202.JPG 498770533_10JUne201203.JPG 1741529013_10June201201.JPG At 1.00 pm the RDS stadium began to fill for the Opening Ceremony: the ceremony of ‘gathering,' writes Father John McLoughlin  The dioceses in each of the four provinces were called to ‘gather’ as the Congress Bell rang out.  As each province entered in procession with banners and flags speakers reflected aloud the Christian history and heritage of each province in turn.  Saints, legends, hopes and dreams, faith: in good times and bad, were all woven together by song, hymns, poetry, music and drama into a rich tapestry depicting the Christian story throughout the many centuries of Irish history.

The Congress Bell rang out again to call the nations of the world to ‘gather’ also in prayer to mark the start of the 50th Eucharistic Congress.  The opening ceremony concluded with the start of the Mass.  After the entrance hymn the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland read out the letter from Pope Benedict XVI announcing the venue and dates of the Congress and that the Papal Legate to represent the Holy Father would be His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin greeted the assembly and reminded everyone that the joyful gathering for this Eucharistic Congress was not one of triumphalism but one of humility acknowledging all the pain of recent years and especially the victims of abuse by priests and religious.  The archbishop continued that a joyful gathering in humility was also a good time to acknowledge the journey of renewal of the Church in Ireland that has begun and the wonderful opportunity now afforded for evangelisation.  The Mass was splendid - prayerful and joyful.  Cardinal Ouellet's homily was excellent.  The sun shone through the clouds and by the end of the Mass the blistering heat and had burnt more than a few uncovered arms and heads – yours truly included.  After Mass the members of the Pastoral Formation Department went over to meet and great people at our stand (No 140).  I had a chance meeting with Cardinal Dolan of New York who remembers fondly his time in Liverpool.  He spoke of the parishioners of St Francis in Garston with great fondness and told me to tell them he has a picture of St Francis Church at home in New York.  He also said it hoped it wouldn’t be too long before he could visit St Francis and the Archdiocese of Liverpool once again.

Eve of Congress: Saturday 9 June 2012

Father John McLoughlin and members of the Pastoral Formation Team are at the fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin from where Father John writes on the eve of the Congress:

Not quite Day One, but it is the Set-Up Day at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) when all the stall holders have the chance to organise their stalls in the exhibition space of the Eucharistic Congress.  Veronica Murphy and I arrived on the early flight this morning and have just returned from setting up the Liverpool Pastoral Formation Stall to our lodging at All Hallows College (Drumcondra).   Sadly four of our boxes have not yet arrived from Liverpool but we expect these to arrive on Monday.  The excitement is building for tomorrow.  The choir, which sounded spectacular, were practising for the opening liturgy which will be followed by the opening Mass.  I bumped into the Archbishop Dermot Martin of Dublin who was delighted to see a Liverpool presence.  He will be even more delighted because there is more to come.  Eleanor Lalley (Sacraments of Initiation Coordinator) and Maureen O’Brien (Coordinator for Marriage and Family Life) arrive tomorrow staying until Tuesday as the theme for Monday explores the Communion of all Christians through Baptism and Tuesday explores Communion of family life through Marriage.  More to come...