- Europe english
A long journey
The Church of Ireland and the International Eucharistic Congress
Hundreds of prayers written in different languages on coloured post-its “blossomed” on an otherwise bare, remote wall. This was also a feature of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC 2012), held in Dublin June 10-17 on the theme “Communion with Christ and with one another”, according to Colette Furlong, Pastoral Services Manager for the Irish Church, interviewed by Simona Mengascini, SIR Europe correspondent in Dublin.
One of the non-official themes - albeit ever present in the days of the Congress - was the sexual abuse scandal. In his homily for the Mass of June 14 Cardinal Seán Brady, archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, reiterated his plea for “forgiveness”. Is this bound to change believers’ and Irish people’s critical attitude?
“I think that Cardinal Brady’s words have had a strong impact. We undertook a long journey for reconciliation. I am aware that the scandal is part of our history and that it will never disappear. We have accepted our past, but we also must extend our glance to the future. How shall we proceed from here? I confide that cardinal Brady’s words will help us find the right direction”.
Were the Irish people truly involved by this event? On what did Congress preparations focus on?
“I have seen with my own eyes that for Irish citizens the Eucharistic Congress has been an opportunity for encounters they had deeply longed for. People gathered not for a specific reason but simply to speak. For many of them it was a true discovery. Our encounters were marked by reflections on life, on the life of the Church in recent years, on society. A workshop also centred on the recovery of values, on what is deemed truly important at individual level. We talked of things that count, of the family, of work, as well as of God and of His presence in our lives. It was beautiful to see that as Catholics, in Ireland, we have embraced God’s presence even without seeking him”.
What is your balance of the Irish people’s attendance to the Congress?
“I’m not using a literary figure if I say that we encountered a great thirst of God. I was surprised by the number of people attending catecheses and workshops to listen, learn and to share. Last year, when I presented the Congress in the country’s dioceses, I was told that the meetings weren’t interesting. The important thing was to restore centrality to the Eucharist. But in order to learn how to live the Eucharist it is necessary to delve into the concrete aspect of our daily lives”.
Would you agree that the Eucharistic procession was welcomed with a certain degree of coldness by the rest of the city?
“Over the past thirty years, under certain aspects, Catholicism became invisible. Practices such as religions processions, held yearly in the parish for the Corpus Domini, were gradually relinquished. Now we realize that Christian life doesn’t belong to the private but to the personal - thus communitarian - sphere. The faithful feel the need to come together and to publicly bear witness to the presence of Christ between us. We have a commitment in society. Going to Mass isn’t enough. In Ireland we must seek a new way to live Christianity. We must ask ourselves how to be as a Church in contemporary society. This is our challenge. In my conversations with priests, bishops, and faithful I noticed that there is deep yearning to resume our journey and continue along this path”.
Your served as the Pastoral Care Manager for the Congress. What has this experience meant for you?
“The area devoted to prayer was essential and simple. At the centre there was a small altar with the Eucharist and chairs were placed around it. It was purposely arranged to reflect the theme of the Congress, ‘the Communion with Christ and with one another’. Thus, in their encounter with Christ the faithful were also seeing one another. Also when the Eucharist wasn’t celebrated, people came in and sat down in peace. It was beautiful. In the same area we set up a wall for prayer, on which we placed strips of paper. At the end of the first day they had all been written. So we decided to prepare post-its. An hour later, the whole wall was covered with coloured post-its, written in many different languages. The last days we collected them and brought them to Mass as a symbol of universal faith”.