.- On his first official apostolic trip outside of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Bari yesterday for the closing of Italy’s 24th Eucharistic Congress where he stressed that Christians need the Eucharist and the Sunday obligation to “find the energy necessary for the path they must follow.” In his homily for the closing ceremonies of the congress, themed, ‘Without Sundays, We Cannot Live,’ the Holy Father told the crowd of 200,000 that, "We need this Bread in order to cope with the fatigue and weariness of the journey. Sunday, the day of the Lord, is the right occasion to draw strength from Him Who is the Lord of life.”
He added that, “The precept of the feast day is not, then, simply an obligation imposed from outside…[but] a need for Christians.”
Pope Benedict concelebrated Mass with prelates of the Italian Episcopal Conference yesterday morning in the "Marisabella" esplanade in the Southern Italian city.
Following the Mass he prayed his traditional Sunday Angelus with the gathered faithful.
During the homily, the Pope recalled that the theme of the Eucharistic congress "takes us back to the year 304, when the emperor Diocletian prohibited Christians, on pain of death, from possessing the Scriptures and from coming together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist.”
“In Abitene, a small town in what is today Tunisia,” he said, “49 Christians" were arrested one Sunday as they celebrated the Eucharist, "in defiance of the imperial proscription. ... Following atrocious tortures, they were put to death."
Like the martyrs of Abitene, the Holy Father continued, it is not easy for Christians of this century "to live like Christians. ... The world in which we live [is] often marked by unbridled consumerism, by religious indifference and by a secularism closed to all forms of transcendence."
Referring to the Mass readings which recalled God’s "gift of manna," to the Jewish people in the desert, the Pope said, "The Son of God, having been made flesh, could become Bread, and thus act as nourishment for His people on their journey to the promised land in heaven.”