CEBU, Philippines - Members of different faiths are all welcome to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City.
Monsignor Joseph Tan, Cebu Archdiocesan spokesman, made this clarification to dismiss perceptions that the congress is only for the Catholic community.
Although organized by the Roman Catholic Church, he said the IEC is open to all Christians and people of goodwill, regardless of their religion.
“We have no plans of excluding anybody from our gathering,” he said.
He said the registration does not even require the attendee to be either a Catholic or a Christian. Everybody is welcome given that they follow the IEC guidelines properly.
“We want this to be an open event, an occasion to share core beliefs with people who do not share with us. We do not want to exclude anybody,” he said.
In the light of ecumenism espoused by Vatican II, the challenge for them is to deepen fraternal bonds and mutual faith in Jesus Christ, despite theological and doctrinal differences among religions.
Bishop Mylo Hubert Claudio Vergara, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said some cardinals and bishops will have dialogues on other religions.
“In terms of catholic identity and looking on our brothers and sisters, like Muslims we will catechize on that giving the perspective of the community,” he said in a press conference.
For instance, the session of His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on the “Cathechesis: The Eucharist and the Dialogue with Cultures” on Thursday, January 28 at 9a.m.
Vergara also said in 1937 when the IEC first happened in the Philippines, one of the highlights was the First Holy Mass Communion. One of those who took Communionfor the first time was Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, then aged six.
Nearly eight decades later, Vidal is set to preside over a Mass where around 5,000 children will receive their First Communion during the IEC.
The congress proper will start today and delegates can expect talks about the Eucharist and the mission of every Catholic. It will conclude on the 31st.
Even with so much to expect from the IEC, Fr. Carmelo Diola,the chairman of the Solidarity and Communion Committee for the said event, said they are not expecting an immediate change for everyone after the IEC.
Diola said even after the IEC they will still continue catechizing people, saying conversion or transformation is not an easy thing to do.
“That’s why we will still catechize. Padayon gihapon atong catechism. Di na mahunong sa IEC lang,” said Diola.
Meanwhile, Vergara said delegates or participants will be expecting so much from this Eucharistic celebration.
“Let me briefly present it in the acronym HOPE. H- expect a happy congress; O- expect an overwhelming experience of God’s love; P- expect a personal encounter with the Lord; and E- expect the Eucharist to renew all of us,” said Vergara.
Fr. Mike Garcia, executive secretary ofthe CBCP committee on IEC, clarified that choosing of Cebu is not related to the preparation of the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines.
However, the congress becomes a “meaningful occasion” in the preparations for the anniversary.
It was in Cebu that the seeds of Christianity in the Far East were first planted in 1521.
It is also in Cebu that can be found the most enduring image of Christianity’s earliest roots in the country, the Sto. Niño de Cebu, whose 450th anniversary of discovery was celebrated April 28 last year. (FREEMAN)