Pope Francis had a special message for the Eucharistic congress in the Philippines

Pope Francis at the general audience in St Peters Square on Dec 16 2015 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Dec. 16, 2015. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis' closing message to the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress said that the Eucharist is a consolation for the Catholic – and also a summons to be a missionary to bring God's mercy to everyone.

"Dear friends, may this Eucharistic Congress strengthen you in your love of Christ present in the Eucharist," he said in a Jan. 31 video message.  "May it be a leaven of reconciliation and peace for the entire world."

Millions of people from the Philippines and around the world took part in Masses, liturgical processions and Eucharistic Adoration events related to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City on the west central Philippines island province of Cebu.

About 12,000 people took part in the congress itself. The event aims to witness to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and to promote a better understanding of the liturgy and the Eucharist in the life of the Church. The congress is now held every four years.

Pope Francis' remarks came at the end of the congress' closing Mass on Sunday. 

"Christ's presence among us is not only a consolation, but also a promise and a summons," he said, according to Vatican Radio. "It is a promise that everlasting joy and peace will one day be ours in the fullness of his Kingdom. But it is also a summons to go forth, as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father's tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child."

In light of injustices, conflicts and humanitarian crises, he said, it is important for every Christian to be "a true missionary disciple, bringing the good news of Christ's redemptive love to a world in such need of reconciliation, justice and peace."

Pope Francis also invoked the Catholic Church's Jubilee Year of Mercy.

"We are called to bring the balm of God's merciful love to the whole human family, binding up wounds, bringing hope where despair so often seems to have the upper hand," he said.

The Pope encouraged participants in the congress to reflect on two of Jesus Christ's gestures at the Last Supper: his showing of fellowship at the table and his washing of feet.

"We know how important it was for Jesus to share meals with his disciples, but also, and especially, with sinners and the outcast," the Pope said. "Sitting at table, Jesus was able to listen to others, to hear their stories, to appreciate their hopes and aspirations, and to speak to them of the Father's love."

"At each Eucharist, the table of the Lord's Supper, we should be inspired to follow his example, by reaching out to others, in a spirit of respect and openness, in order to share with them the gift we ourselves have received."

The pontiff reflected on the Asian context, saying the Church there is committed to respectful dialogue with other religions. 

"Through the testimony of lives transformed by God's love, we best proclaim the Kingdom's promise of reconciliation, justice and unity for the human family. Our example can open hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, who leads them to Christ the Savior."

Pope Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples "as a sign of humble service, of the unconditional love with which he gave his life on the Cross for the salvation of the world."

"The Eucharist is a school of humble service. It teaches us readiness to be there for others," he said. "This too is at the heart of missionary discipleship."

Pope Francis' message praised the Filipino people as "an example of fidelity and deep devotion to the Lord and his Church." They have been "a people of missionaries, spreading the light of the Gospel in Asia and to the ends of the earth."

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The Pope reflected on the wake of the devastating storm Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.

"It brought immense devastation to the Philippines, yet it also brought in its wake an immense outpouring of solidarity, generosity and goodness," he said. "People set about rebuilding not just homes, but lives." 

The Pope encouraged his audience to seek renewal in the Eucharist. 

"The Eucharist speaks to us of that power, which flows from the Cross and constantly brings new life. It changes hearts. It enables us to be caring, to protect the poor and the vulnerable, and to be sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. It teaches us to act with integrity and to reject the injustice and corruption which poison the roots of society."

At the close of his message, Pope Francis announced that Budapest, Hungary will be the site of the 2020 International Eucharistic Conference. 

"I ask all of you to join me in praying for its spiritual fruitfulness and for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all engaged in its preparation," he said.

The Philippines previously hosted the congress in the year 1937, while Hungary last hosted the congress in 1938.

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