After Pope Francis visited the Philippines in January 2015 to spread the visit of the faith, the country was chosen once again to be the host of yet another global faith event.
The attention of the world will be on the Philippines again particularly in Cebu, where the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) will be held from January 24 to 31, 2016.
But what exactly is the International Eucharistic Congress and what role will it play for the lives of participants and delegations from around the world.
Here is a quick guide about the gathering:
- The IEC is an international gathering of people which aims to: promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church, help improve understanding and celebration of the liturgy and draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist
- The Eucharist is the Sacrament in which Jesus Christ gives Himself—His Body and Blood—for us, so that we too might give ourselves to Him in love and be united with Him in Holy Communion.
- The different names of the Holy Eucharist are the Holy Sacrifice; Holy Mass; the Sacrifice of the Mass; the Lord’s Supper; the Breaking of Bread; Eucharistic celebration; the Memorial of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection; the Holy and Divine Liturgy; the Sacred Mysteries; and Holy Communion.
- The Pontifical Committee on International Eucharistic Congress, headed by Archbishop Piero Marini and based in Rome, initiates and coordinates the IEC at the global level.
- Not all Eucharistic Congresses are international. Some countries have been known to hold national, local, diocesan or parish Eucharistic Congresses. The Episcopal Conference of a particular country may summon a National Eucharistic Congress.
- Normally, an International Eucharistic Congress lasts for 8 days. It opens on a Sunday and ends on the following Sunday.
- The idea of a Eucharistic Congress (originally called Eucharistic pilgrimages) came from the insight of and commitment of Emelie-Marie Tamisier, a laywoman from France. International Eucharistic Congresses began in 1881 as the fruit of the works of St. Peter Julian Eymard, Apostle of the Eucharist.
- The 33rd IEC in 1937 was held in Manila, Philippines. It was the first IEC in Asia.
- Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal was one of those who received first communion at the age of six.
- The 51st IEC being held in Cebu is connected with the 9-year Novena for the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. Christianity came to the country’s shore through Cebu in 1521.
- The expected daily attendees to the Congress are around 15, 000 pilgrims. However, during the opening and closing Masses of the Congress, participants are estimated to reach to a million.
- Traditionally, the Pope does not attend International Eucharistic Congresses. The Holy Father usually sends Papal Legates to represent him in gatherings like this.
- For the gathering in Cebu, the Pope will be represented by Myanmar Archbishop Cardinal Charles Maung Bo.
- The theme of the 51st IEC in 2016 is “Christ in you, our hope of glory” (cf. Col.1:27).
- Although organized by the Roman Catholic Church, the IEC is open to all Christians and people of goodwill.
Church leaders expressed hope that this international gathering in Cebu will bring the world together as they find Christ in the Eucharist.