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Eucharistic congress in Dublin to avoid triumphalism

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin will be characterized by humility, moderation and a renewed focus on the Eucharist as the source and nourishment of unity in the church, said the president of the Vatican committee charged with overseeing the gathering.

Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, said the congress June 10-17 will reflect that this year is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, but also that Catholics in the host country, Ireland, are still reeling from the clerical sex abuse scandal and are engaged in a process of repentance and reform.

The archbishop spoke to Catholic News Service March 7 after presenting the Italian edition of “The Eucharist: Womb of the Church,” a series of theological and pastoral reflections published in preparation for the congress.

The Dublin congress will have “two very positive aspects, in my opinion: the lack of triumphalism — and, so, a congress based on interiority, on moderation, also because of the difficult economic situation. The other aspect is the focus on the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that communion is the center of the Eucharist, its primary aim.”

The theme of the 2012 congress, which is expected to bring together more than 80,000 Catholics from around the world, is: “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with One Another.”

The Eucharistic liturgy brings individuals into communion with Christ and creates communion among them, said Archbishop Marini. “Christ comes to transform us into himself,” into the body of Christ, he said.

“Communion is needed within the church, where we fight with one another, but also outside the church, for our witness in the world, our witness for a more just, more tolerant world where people are more respectful of one another and of nature,” he said.

Archbishop Marini, a liturgical scholar, began serving at the Vatican in 1965, working in the office charged with implementing the council’s liturgical renewal. In 1987, he was named master of papal liturgical ceremonies, serving both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI until October 2007 when he was named president of the Eucharist congresses committee.

The international congresses, which began in the late 1800s, accompanied and encouraged the liturgical, biblical, patristic and ecumenical movements that were developing in the church at the same time, Archbishop Marini said. “The Eucharistic congresses were the place the movements were most manifest” until the 1960s, when their scholarly and pastoral foundations were deepened and they were accepted by the Second Vatican Council.

Up until the 1960 International Eucharistic Congress in Munich, though, the congresses still were centered around Eucharistic processions, adoration and the reception of Communion outside the Mass, he said.

“The procession was considered a show of strength, a demonstration that Christians were present in society, which stemmed from the congress’ origins in France when Catholics felt a need to say publicly, ‘We are here.’ With the liturgical movement, there came a need to adjust the triumphalist aspect to draw closer to the truth” that the Eucharistic celebration forms the church and transforms its members, so they can transform the world, Archbishop Marini said.

Since the Second Vatican Council, he said, the congresses have been centered around the daily celebration of Mass, although the processions and Eucharistic adoration are still present and valued as expressions of a piety that flows from the Mass and leads people back to it.

At the book presentation, he encouraged the mainly Italian audience to travel to Dublin for the Eucharistic congress, not only for their own spiritual enrichment, but also as a sign “of solidarity with the Christians of Ireland” and a demonstration to the world that the Mass creates bonds of communion and charity among peoples.