Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 19, 2023 / 14:20 pm
Speaking to members of the U.S. bishops’ committee for the National Eucharistic Congress on Monday, June 19, Pope Francis said that the congress “marks a significant moment in the life of the Church in the United States.”
The pope also blessed a large monstrance that will be used to house Our Lord during the National Eucharistic Congress.
Francis praised the committee’s “efforts to contribute to a revival of faith in, and love for, the holy Eucharist,” which he called the “source and summit of the Christian life.”
“The Eucharist is God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart,” Francis said. “The hunger for authentic life, for in the Eucharist Christ himself is truly in our midst, to nourish, console, and sustain us on our journey.”
Members of the organizing committee for the U.S. bishops’ upcoming National Eucharistic Congress met with the pope at the Vatican.
The bishops’ three-year eucharistic revival campaign, aimed at increasing devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, is in its second year now and major national events are planned for 2024.
The decision to undertake the initiative followed a 2019 Pew survey that revealed that only 31% of Catholics believe in a basic tenet of their faith — that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly and substantially present in the Eucharist.
The National Eucharistic Congress, one of the revival’s culminating events, will take place July 17–21, 2024, in Indianapolis. Organizers expect 80,000 faithful from across the country to gather for the congress, which they say will be “a defining moment in our generation.”
“Sadly, nowadays, there are those among the Catholic faithful who believe that the Eucharist is more a symbol than the reality of the Lord’s presence and love,” Francis lamented.
Francis also stressed the importance of eucharistic adoration in the life of the Church.
“I believe that we have lost the sense of adoration in our day,” he said. “We must rediscover the sense of adoration in silence. It is a form of prayer that we have lost. Too few people know what it is.”
“It is up to the bishops to catechize the faithful about praying through adoration,” the pope told the committee, adding that the Eucharist “is more than a symbol; it is the real and loving presence of the Lord.”
“In the Eucharist, we encounter the One who gave everything for us, who sacrificed himself in order to give us life, who loved us to the end,” Francis said. “It is my hope, then, that the Eucharistic Congress will inspire Catholics throughout the country to discover anew the sense of wonder and awe at the Lord’s great gift of himself and to spend time with him in the celebration of the holy Mass and in personal prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Devotion to the Eucharist, Francis said, will inspire “the faithful to commit themselves with ever greater zeal to being missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus in the world.”
“The love we celebrate in this sacrament cannot be kept to ourselves but demands to be shared with all,” Francis said. “You go to the celebration of Mass, receive Communion, adore the Lord, and then what do you go after? You go out and evangelize.”
The pope called for evangelization and love to be shown especially toward the elderly, whom he called “the wisdom of a people,” and the sick, “who are the image of the suffering Jesus.”
Francis also reminded the committee of the need to foster vocations to the priesthood, quoting the words of St. John Paul II that “there can be no Eucharist without the priesthood.”
In concluding his address, Francis assured the committee of his prayers and entrusted them to the intercession of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States.
“May all that you are doing be an occasion of grace for each of you and may it bear fruit in guiding men and women throughout your nation to the Lord who, by his presence among us, rekindles hope and renews life,” the pope said.
Lastly, as he often does in concluding his addresses, the pope asked the committee to pray for him.
Speaking to reporters after the pope’s address, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, chair of National Eucharistic Congress, called the meeting a “very emotional experience for all of us,” adding that “you really sensed his passion for what we’re doing in the eucharistic revival.”
Cozzens said the National Eucharistic Congress will be a “great moment in the United States” and an “opportunity to come together and encounter the Lord together and then to be set on fire [for love of God].”
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In a Monday press release from the U.S. bishops, National Eucharistic Congress Executive Director Tim Glemkowski said that it was “a wonderful gift to meet with Pope Francis and ask for his blessing,” adding that it “was truly a unique spiritual opportunity as part of our country’s preparation for such a historic moment in our Church’s life.”
“It was so important to gather together as a team in the presence of Pope Francis and ask him to bless the event, the monstrance, and the work we are doing to prepare tens of thousands of people to encounter Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist,” Glemkowski said.
For more information on the National Eucharistic Revival click here. For information on the National Eucharistic Congress click here.
The full text of Francis’ address is available here.