‘There are many social ills in relation to the Eucharist,’ the president of the Catholic Media Network tells Rappler as the International Eucharistic Congress begins in Cebu City
CEBU CITY, Philippines (Jan. 24, 2016) — An international Catholic conference begins in Cebu City on Sunday, January 24, and is seen to touch on modern issues such as terrorism and climate change in relation to faith.
“There are many social ills in relation to the Eucharist,” said Fr Francis Lucas, president of the Catholic Media Network, in an interview with Rappler on Sunday, the start of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu City.
The Eucharist, better known as the Mass, is the main topic of the huge Catholic event that runs until next Sunday, January 31.
Lucas said there is one important reason why a high-profile list of speakers – including Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan – will likely tackle modern problems in the IEC.
He said, “What is outside starts from the inside.”
Lucas continued: “What are we willing to do? Are we willing to be broken to sacrifice in loving others, in changing the world? Because climate change itself is caused by us; poverty is also caused by us. It’s not caused by any other thing.”
He said sin, after all, “is also social.”
“The strongest type of sin that destroys the world is social sin that you do against each other. It’s a conglomeration of all the different evils that come together to destroy the world itself,” he said.
The IEC’s opening Mass alone shows the so-called “social dimension” of the Eucharist. In his homily, the Pope’s representative, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar, slammed abortion and death penalty as opposed to the Eucharist.
Tagle on IEC and Paris attacks
In an earlier news conference, Tagle already stressed the significance of the IEC in the face of world events like the terror attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people in November 2015.
Referring to the IEC’s importance in the context of the Paris attacks, Tagle told reporters, “The Eucharist is the sacrament not of violence but it’s the sacrament of love.”
The cardinal recounted the Last Supper, the night before Jesus Christ was crucified. It was about “friends betraying a friend,” Tagle said.
Tagle said: “But how did Jesus respond to that betrayal? Instead of equal violence, instead of retribution, instead of hatred, Jesus said: ‘This is my body for you. This is my blood for you.’ Hatred can be overcome by a gift of self.”
He continued: “This is the power of the Eucharist – how to instill faithful love, love for peace, seeing a brother or a sister, even in an enemy. It’s not easy, but we need that grace. We need it now. At a time when people are suspicious of each other, we need the power of the Eucharist to discover a friend. There’s hope.”
The IEC touches on modern issues because it is more than a theological conference. This is because for Catholics, the topic of the IEC – the Eucharist or the Mass – has a “social dimension.” This means it has to affect the way Catholics live their daily lives.
Tagle hits ‘god of profit’
Tagle, for instance, delivered a scathing rebuke of modern evils, such as denying workers their wages, at the 49th IEC in Quebec.
Tagle said: “It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination?
“How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of ‘progress’? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?”
In the same event, he also condemned luxurious treatment for Catholic priests.
“Ecclesiastical customs and persons, when naively and narrowly deified and glorified, might become hindrances to true worship and compassion,” the Manila archbishop said.
He also said: “I am disturbed when some people who do not even know me personally conclude that my being a bishop automatically makes me closer to God than they could ever be. ‘My words are God’s words, my desires are God’s, my anger is God’s, and my actions are God’s.’”
For the 2016 IEC, other speakers include Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, former Dominican head and now Vatican consultor Fr Timothy Radcliffe, and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, said to be “the most followed Catholic leader on social media” next to the Pope.
The Pope also sent a representative or papal legate to the IEC – Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar. He arrived in Cebu City on Sunday as the Catholic Church also expects around 12,000 delegates to attend the IEC.