Cardinal Péter Erdö said Saturday at the International Eucharistic Congress that the world is in “burning need” of the witness of a united Christianity.
The archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary offered Mass in the main square in front of the grand Hungarian Parliament Building on the penultimate day of the congress as the country awaits the arrival of Pope Francis.
“It is a special providential gift of God that before the conclusion of the Eucharistic Congress, we can celebrate here in the central square of the nation," Erdö said in his homily on Sept. 11.
"Present in the parliament now are the Holy Crown and our most cherished relic, the Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen."
The Catholic cardinal noted that Bartholomew I, who was present at the Mass, had presided over the Orthodox canonization of St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary,
“This reminds us that when our first king died in 1038, Eastern and Western Christianity were still in union,” Erdo said.
“This unity is the will of Christ Himself, who prayed that His disciples may be one, that the world may believe that the Father has sent Him. Our world today is in burning need of the testimony of a united Christianity.”
Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, addressed the International Eucharistic Congress immediately before the Mass.
“We pray to the merciful God to strengthen and bless our endeavors to advance on the path to unity,” the Eastern Orthodox leader said.
“Despite their specificities, East and West organically belong together in the unity of Christendom,” he said.
Earlier this week at the International Eucharistic Congress, Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, also spoke of unity.
He said that belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist unites Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers despite their divisions.
The evening Mass in the center of Budapest concluded with a candlelight procession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
In his homily, Erdö underlined how the Eucharist unites believers across space and time.
“What we experienced this evening happened because our fathers, our ancestors there in Jerusalem were together with Jesus of Nazareth," the cardinal said. "And He, on the last evening, before he was captured, condemned and crucified, ate together with His disciples. He took the bread and said, 'Take and eat. This is My body.'"
“And the disciples sensed that something inexplicable had happened. Something greater than what we are. Something that had to be repeated again and again, for this event to be present among us, this singular unrepeatable event, radiating power. The body of the Master was pierced, His blood shed, but on the third day He rose for the dead,” he said.
“This is why the candles burn, this is why these words are spoken again and again in family homes, in brilliant churches, in prisons, in labor camps, in secret and in the open. This is what we priests are for.”
“This is why following this Holy Mass we will set forth in candlelit procession with the Blessed Sacrament, to proclaim to the city and the world the miracle of Jesus’ presence and ask for His blessing upon us all.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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