IEC, best follow-up to PH papal visit

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A sea of people was present at the Plaza Independencia on Jan. 24 for the Opening Mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).

CEBU City, Jan. 25, 2016 – Catholic bishops in the Philippines said this year’s 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) which officially began in the afternoon of Jan. 24 at Plaza Independencia at the heart of this city is an apt and fitting follow-up of Pope Francis’ five-day pastoral visit to the country in January 2015.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza said the IEC is definitely “the best follow-up of Pope Francis’ visit emphasizing the social dimension of the Eucharistic spirituality.”

The prelate CBCP News while he can’t claim to have a grasp of the overall impact of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit, particularly on practices toward the Eucharist, he certainly believes the visit influenced “our living out of the Eucharist – in our attitudes, values, priorities such as a growing sense of communion and sensitivity towards those in the peripheries and those excluded.”

Shift in consciousness

He explained people have become “more merciful and compassionate.”

While Alminaza considers the increase in church attendance as a work in progress, he said priests and bishops “have had a qualitative shift in consciousness and heightened sense of awareness about their identity, vocation, and mission.”

Bishop Gerry, as called by his priests, added Pope Francis has become an inspiration not only for Catholics “but even for those who claim they don’t believe in God.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles believes the historic visit changed and improved the Filipino practices toward the Eucharist.  He added this was clearly seen in a remarkable increase in the number of church-goers.

‘Returning Catholics’

“Pope Francis visit was certainly an appropriate preparation for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress,” he further said.

In Muslim-dominated Basilan province where the See of Territorial Prelature of Isabel has been in existence for 53 years, Bishop Martin S. Jumoad said Pope Francis visit last year brought many Catholics to the church.

“His pronouncements served as fitting preparation for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress,” the 59-year old prelate told CBCP News.  He added the visit “awakened non-practicing Catholics to value the Eucharist.”

Jumoad said he has witnessed this in his prelature where Christians form the minority.

Apostolic Administrator Bishop William David Antonio of the Vicariate Apostolic of San Jose in Mindoro said Pope Francis was a “great inspiration” to the Catholic faithful and even to non-Catholics.

More vocations

He added participation in Eucharistic celebrations improved “both quantitatively and qualitatively.”

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said Pope Francis visit last year “strengthened out faith and practice.”  He said he knew of two professionals, a nurse and a writer, who entered the seminary some months after the historic visit.

“Church attendance increased and prepared us for this IEC,” added Ongtioco.

He explained Pope Francis showed both faith and love as well as the Eucharist “in action” through concrete acts of charity, especially to the poor and marginalized. (Melo M. Acuña / CBCP News)

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