What is IEC?
A Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people aimed at promoting an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church. The Roman Ritual De Sacra Communione et de Cultu Mysterii Eucharistici extra Missam defines the Congress as “a pause for commitment and prayer to which a particular Church invites the universal Church”. During this time “the celebration of the Eucharist becomes the center and vortex of all forms of piety, of theological and pastoral reflections, of social commitment”.
The Congress normally takes place every four years. Eucharistic Congresses are not the same everywhere. They are characterized by a life of faith and by the culture and tradition of a particular country. All these must be seen during the Congress.
The choice of the Philippines as the next venue for the congress was announced by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during a video message at the conclusion of the previous Eucharistic congress held in Dublin in June 2012. He said in the video message, “I would like to invite you to join me in praying for God’s blessings upon the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2016 in the city of Cebu!” “To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering. I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe.”
A message from the Pontifical Commission for International Eucharistic Congresses stated that “the celebration of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in this Country (Philippines), the only one with a Catholic majority in Asian continent, is an important challenge to strengthen the missionary / evangelizing perspective as well as for identifying new ways in celebrating the Congresses themselves.”
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines expressed their desire that the upcoming Congress will deepen Eucharistic devotion in the country as well as prepare for the 500th Anniversary of the evangelization in the Philippines. Thus, the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in Cebu, Philippines in 2016 will be a pause for commitment and a pause for prayer.
The particular Church of the Philippines invites the universal Church to celebrate the Eucharist, to reflect on it, to pray together, to share love, friendship and life. Trying to translate the theme, “Christ in you, our hope and glory” (Col. 1:27), the Congress will involve significant catechesis and engaging testimonies, cultural and social events, moments of friendship and conviviality as a gathering of peoples who recognize that the risen Christ, celebrated and prayed, is the heart of their life experience. With the theme of hope, the announcement of the gift of God to the young, of which Asia is very rich, will be recovered as well as the commitment to the ranks of the poor of the continent (Pontifical Commission).
The word “hope” makes direct reference to young people, the hope of the future. And so they will also have a special place in the Congress where the Church educates to life, to love, to social charity through the tools of the ecclesial communion, the vocational call, a strong commitment, the voluntary work, etc. The word “hope” also refers to the incredible human resources represented by the cultures of different peoples, what they have created with their intelligence and their hands, the treasures of their wisdom and their centuries-old traditions, their concrete way of being human. As in the messianic banquet, around the table of the Body and Blood of the Lord are gathering all the nations of the world with their wonderful variety of traditions and cultures whose differences are transformed by the Eucharist towards a new civilization.