Budapest International Eucharistic Congress to open with 1,000-strong choir, First Communions

Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), Budapest, Hungary Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), Budapest, Hungary./ Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0.

The International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, will open this September with a 1,000-strong choir and a “vast” number of First Communions.

The organizers of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress made the announcement as they released new details of the packed program for the Sept. 5-12 event.

At a May 13 press conference in the Hungarian capital, the hosts emphasized the significance of Pope Francis’ decision to celebrate the event’s closing Mass in the city’s Heroes’ Square.

The congress was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The visit of the Holy Father sends a strong message as it was 21 years ago the last time when the supreme pontiff, at that time St. Pope John Paul II, attended an International Eucharistic Congress -- in Rome,” they said in a press statement.

“The Holy See usually is represented by the apostolic nuncio or legate at such global events, and the pope generally addresses the pilgrims in video messages.”

They noted that the congress will begin at 3 p.m. local time on Sunday, Sept. 5, in Heroes’ Square with an opening ceremony including a performance by a choir of 1,000 singers.

The opening Mass will then be celebrated by the papal legate at 4 p.m. in the square, which honors Hungarian national leaders. The Mass will be attended by students from Hungary’s Catholic schools.

Organizers said that “vast numbers are going to partake of the First Communion” at the Mass.

On Monday, Sept. 6, five days of events will begin at the main congress venue, the Hungexpo Budapest Congress and Exhibition Center.

The event’s program lists cardinals from five continents as leaders of the congress’ morning prayers, catechesis, testimonies, and workshops.

Scheduled speakers include Burmese Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, retired Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and Canadian Cardinal Gérald Lacroix.

Organizers said that the speaker who will travel the greatest distance to the event is Archbishop José Palma of Cebu, who will fly from the Philippines.

Hungary has a population of 9.8 million, 62% of whom are Catholic. The country, which borders Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia, last hosted the Eucharistic Congress in 1938.

There will also be a significant number of other events around the congress. A theological symposium will take place on Sept. 2-4 in Esztergom, a city in northern Hungary that is the seat of the Primate of Hungary.

On Sept. 4, a concert celebrating Judeo-Christian dialogue will be held at Budapest’s Dohány Street Synagogue. A host of evening concerts will take place throughout the congress.

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Organizers highlighted the premiere of a Mass setting in the Romani language which will take place during a Mass at St. Stephen’s Basilica. The Mass setting was created by young composer Patrik Gergő Oláh. The traditionally nomadic Romani people are Hungary’s largest minority.

An exhibition on the theme of anti-Christian persecution will also open in cooperation with Hungary Helps, the country’s humanitarian assistance program for the persecuted Christians, and the Hungarian National Museum.

The weekday events at the Hungexpo will build towards the weekend of Sept. 11-12, the final two days of the congress.

On the Saturday, Cardinal Péter Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest will celebrate Mass in Kossuth Square, home to the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building, followed by a candlelight procession to Heroes’ Square.

The cardinal told CNA in February that he was convinced that the congress would be “a great sign of hope for the Catholics all around the world” following the pandemic.

Pope Francis is scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the closing Mass in Heroes’ Square at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 12.

“In addition to the 120-member orchestra of the Hungarian Opera, the Choir of the Opera and a Grand Choir of 2,080 singers arriving from all corners of Hungary will be among the performers,” the organizers said.

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The September International Eucharistic Congress will be broadcast by EWTN.