Budapest (Hungary). From 5 to 12 September 2021 there took place in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress , with the biblical motto “All my springs are in you” (Ps 87:7). The concluding Eucharist of the Congress on 12 September, was celebrated by Pope Francis, who from there began his 34th International Trip, then continued in Slovakia.
The event was attended by the Educating Communities of the Houses in Hungary of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, of St. Mary D. Mazzarello Province (ITV); Mary Help of Christians Community of Budapest, Mary Help of Christians Community of Eger, and St. John Bosco Community of Mogyórod, with pupils, children, young people, and families of the Schools and works.
The Congress opened on 5 September with the Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, in the Heroes’ Square, the largest and most representative square of the Hungarian capital. In his homily, the Cardinal addressed young people saying, “God is always young, and the Church is the true youth of the world because she guards the sacrament of the Body of Christ. May the Eucharist be the center of your days.”
The program provided for the beginning of each day with common prayer, followed by the Catechesis of the Cardinals from different parts of the world and by testimonies on faith and experiences related to the Eucharist, as well as moments of Eucharistic adoration, Holy Masses, events, concerts, and shows organized in the city.
Among the numerous events, on 10 September, “The Fountainhead”, the Youth Evening held at the Papp László Budapest Sportarena, was significant. The FMA accompanied the young people to live an experience of concerts, testimonies, and shows of intense Eucharistic value.
On 11 September, St. Margaret Island, the green lung of Budapest in the middle of the Danube River, hosted the Family Day, in the year of “Amoris Laetitia Family” dedicated to the family and the Year of St. Joseph. The activities took place on the stages and in more than 70 tents in which various proposals were offered by religious Congregations and Associations, from spiritual talks, confessions, and prayer experiences, to small craft activities, sports, and games. The FMA had a tent available to meet young people and families and present the Charism and the Salesian vocation through informative materials, videos on life in Salesian works, games, and manual activities.
Cardinal Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, primate of the Catholic Church in Hungary, presided over the Eucharistic celebration in front of the Parliament, recalling how St. Stephen, entrusting the crown to Mary, asked for protection for all the people, and She is the one who intercedes for unity between the Christian East and West. The celebration, which was attended by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, was followed by the torchlight procession with thousands of faithful of all ages and social conditions who illuminated the street for about 3 km, up to the Heroes’ Square.
On 12 September, for the final Eucharistic celebration, over one hundred thousand faithful present in the Heroes’ Square and in the adjacent streets welcomed Pope Francis with joyful songs and greetings. The last Pope who personally participated in the International Eucharistic Congress was Pope John Paul II, in Rome in 2000. The Holy Father’s spiritual pilgrimage to the heart of Europe starts from the Eucharist.
In his homily, the Holy Father took up the question addressed by Jesus to the disciples: “But who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29) as an appeal to a personal response, “Who am I for you?”, which leads to the “renewal of discipleship”, following the same path as the Master, who came to serve and not to be served:
“There the Eucharist urges us to feel ourselves as one Body, to be broken for the others. Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow the encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist to transform us, as it transformed the great and courageous Saints whom you honor. I am thinking of Saint Stephen and Saint Elizabeth. (…) This International Eucharistic Congress is the arrival point of a journey, but above all, it is a starting point. Because the journey behind Jesus invites us to look ahead, to welcome the turning point of grace”.
The Pope’s final greeting, in Hungarian, Köszönöm! (thanks) and Isten áldja meg in Magyart! (God bless the Hungarians), contributed to the atmosphere of a large family, as one of the FMA present tells us:
“The entire nation, state and church authorities, organizers, volunteers, law enforcement, health care, security officers expressed an intense collaboration and authentic Christian communion. Availability, patience, and kindness have been a continuous testimony of the Lord’s Presence. The celebration of the Congress, with the influx of Hungarian faithful from many parts of the world, was an opportunity to reinforce our Christian identity, to feel more united in faith. The Congress is not over. The Eucharistic Jesus, Source of faith, hope, love, mercy, and fidelity invites us to communicate to others the wonders of His Presence and to ask, with one heart and one soul, for peace and fraternity for all peoples”.
Budapest had already been the seat of the Congress from 25 to 29 May 1938. the 1st Eucharistic Congress was held in Lille, France, in 1881 and, to give continuity, a Standing Committee was established for future Congresses. The previous Eucharistic Congress, the 51st, took place in CEBU, Philippines, in 2016. The 52nd Congress was supposed to take place in 2020 and was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, will be the site of the 53rd International Eucharistic Congress, to be held in 2024, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the country’s consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.