CEBU City, Jan. 24, 2016 – Pope Francis is expected to give a message to the participants of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), which is set to open this afternoon in Cebu City.
It was not sure, however, whether the papal message will be recorded or streamed live over the Internet, IEC organizers told reporters.
“Let us allow the pope to surprise us. He’s known to be like that,” said Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the communications department of the 51st IEC, in a press conference at the IEC Pavilion at the compound of Cebu’s Pope St. John XXIII Major Seminary.
Happening a year after Pope Francis’ tumultuous apostolic journey to Manila and Leyte, the 51st IEC, the quadrennial Catholic gathering aimed at promoting the centrality of the Holy Eucharist in Christian life, is a “spillover of grace” from the 2015 papal visit, Bishop Vergara said.
Some 12,000 pilgrims are expected to flock to various IEC events, while 300,000 people are expected to attend today’s opening Mass at the Plaza Independencia at 4 p.m. Around 800 media personnel have been accredited to cover the international event, Bishop Vergara said. There will also be 5,000 first communicants.
The 51st IEC is a Catholic gathering but people from other faiths will not be excluded. Bishop Vergara said IEC speakers would tackle the Church’s dialogue with other religions.
This is only the second time for the Philippines to host an International Eucharistic Congress, after the 31st IEC held in Manila in 1937, which makes the Cebu event an “experience of a lifetime.”
Bishop Vergara said the IEC was an occasion for Catholics to reaffirm the Second Vatican Council’s proclamation of the Eucharist as the “source and summit of Christian life.”
He said people could expect “HOPE” from the IEC: H for a “happy congress,” O for an “overwhelming experience of God’s love,” P for a “personal encounter with the Lord,” and E for a eucharistic renewal.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, media relations head of the IEC Secretariat, said Cebu’s hosting of the 51st IEC is part of the nine-year preparation for the fifth centenary of the Christianization of the Philippines, which began in Cebu.
“Cebu is the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines,” the Cebu cleric noted. (CBCP News)