CEBU City, Jan. 24, 2016 – One of 30 Irish nationals attending the 51st Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu has promised to pray for young people back home whom he laments are slowly losing the faith.
“Yes, Ireland is still very much Catholic, but unfortunately quite a few of the young people are not practicing,” Thomas Michael Burns of Dublin told CBCP News in an interview.
While baptism in the predominantly Catholic country remains high, with most of their children receiving First Communion at age eight, he bewailed that many begin to lose interest in the Church as soon as they reach early adulthood.
“Unfortunately, when they come to teenage years or the early twenties they are inclined to fall away. We hope and we pray that they will come back,” he said.
Burns stressed, however, that although they are not as passionate and involved in the life of the Church as their ancestors had been, this new generation of Irish Catholics still believe in God.
“They do have faith. They do believe in God. They pray in times of trouble. But as far as going to Church on Sundays and worshiping the Lord in Holy Mass, they neglected that. So we pray for them,” he explained.
Ireland, a bastion of Catholicism in Europe, recently saw the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Pilgrimage of faith
Burns, an IEC veteran, went on to express excitement over the week-long congress, especially since it is his first time in the Philippines.
“We expect it is a pilgrimage of faith. And we hope to learn, to listen … and we hope we would be able to contribute a little as well, to meet the international delegates, people from all over the world, and to make sure they’ll come back to their own country with new ideas, new thoughts, and new enthusiasm as well,” he said, speaking for his co-delegates.
Pilgrims from across the planet
According to Burns, when he and fellow pilgrims attended the last IEC which Ireland hosted in 2012, they vowed to also take part in the next one even if it means traveling halfway around the world.
“The Congress was held in Dublin four years ago, so we said we have to come to the next one. But the last time we didn’t know where we would be traveling. So we’ve come a long way. We’re delighted to be here and we’re excited about this congress,” he shared.
Burns, moreover, praised the friendliness of their Filipino hosts and the warm climate.
“Yes, lovely [the Philippines]. People are very friendly. And we’re delighted to be here. It’s warm. But we’re happy with that because it’s cold and wet in Ireland at this time so we’re happy to be in this warm, hot, dry country,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)