Papal envoy opens eucharistic congress by declaring war on poverty


By Simone Orendain

CEBU, Philippines (CNS) — The 51st
International Eucharistic Congress kicked off with Pope Francis’
representative, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, declaring war on

“The Eucharist calls for
… a third world war against poverty,” said Cardinal Bo, “a third
world war against the cruelty of dogs getting fed with sumptuous, organic food,
while poor children scramble for scraps from the table.”

Tens of thousands of people
waited at least an hour under a punishing sun to attend the Jan. 24 opening
Mass led by Cardinal Bo at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu. He opened his
homily with a plea for the crowd to “be patient with the heat.”

“Soon it will be all right. The
moon is too hot in Cebu,” the cardinal quipped, as the sun was just minutes
from setting.

For a couple of hours, until the seats were opened up to the public, Lermalyn Otida, an office worker
from Cebu, stood outside of the fenced-off area that enclosed seating for

“You see the people around
still coming over, they don’t mind if it’s very hot,” Otida told Catholic
News Service afterward. “They don’t mind if no seats (are) available. They
don’t mind if (it’s) too much traffic. No. That’s faith. It’s the faith that
comes up in everyone.”

With greetings in the Visaya dialect
and the national language of Tagalog, Cardinal Bo told the faithful that Pope
Francis loved them “very much.”

He called Filipinos the “beacon
of Catholicism” to the world, saying that having a Philippine presence in
any country means there will be Catholicism. Close to 10 million Filipinos live
and work outside the Philippines, with most practicing their Catholic faith,
often in countries that do not have majority Christian populations.

Cardinal Bo remarked on the
Philippine church and its people being “the only church in the world that
welcomed” priests from his country, which he said was a “suffering
church” for more than five decades under military rule.

“You have shared
the bread of hospitality, the bread of knowledge, the bread of your love.”

Cardinal Bo said the Eucharist
strips the faithful of their social status, as people of all walks of life take

“The Eucharist calls us to
justice. No other religion elevates justice to this level. No other religion
elevates the poor to this level,” he said. He called it the major
challenge in a world that “kills children in the womb” and “spends
more on arms than on food.”

The cardinal emphasized that the
mystery of the Eucharist is twofold: presence and mission. The Eucharist is the
true presence of Jesus, while it was the mission of the faithful to share that
presence with others.

“From eucharistic
celebration to eucharistic commitment: mission,” he said.

Cardinal Bo said being devoted to
eucharistic adoration was good and so was being devoted to Santo Nino, the child
Jesus, a strong devotion in Cebu.

“Christ is calling us to be
disciples, to carry his cross,” he said. “The Mass of the devotee
ends in an hour, but the Mass of the disciple is unending. The Eucharist of the
devotee is confined to the clean altars of the church. The Eucharist of the
disciple continues with the streets as altar.”

Once the sun had fully set and
Mass ended, fireworks exploded in one section of
the sky above the plaza.

After the Mass, Sacred Heart
Sister Yasuko Taguchi of Sapporo, Japan, a delegate from her country, put her
hand on her heart and told CNS, “We are so, so, so overcome by this
wonderful opening Mass.”

She said she was struck by the cardinal’s
homily, the music and “everything.”

Sister Taguchi said it reminded her that
when Christ died, he “left himself as a legacy for reconciliation and love
and sharing and caring for one another. He is not here, but he is here. He is
risen in us. … This (Mass) brought us such a realization, that he is
here present among us … this was possible only in the Philippines.”

Diane Abigail Canate, 17, a
college student from the neighboring island province of Leyte, called Cardinal
Bo’s message “inspiring.”

“He said that Filipinos
have really strong faith in God by what we witness today,” she told CNS.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma
welcomed Cardinal Bo at the start of the opening Mass with a reference to the
Congress’ theme.

He said, “Indeed it is
perhaps symbolic that we open this 51st International Eucharistic Congress here
at Plaza Independencia as we proclaim true independence by acknowledging our
total dependence on Christ, recognizing that Christ crucified and risen is
truly in us, our hope of glory.”

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A video to accompany this
story can be found at

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