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Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco: “mission” of youths from Genova to overcome loneliness

The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference – CEI – spoke of the great anticipation ahead of the national Eucharistic Congress, introducing one of its fruits: a Mission of youths for youths. Proposals include, inter alia, encouraging the laity to attend Mass also during weekdays; offerings of the final Mass to earthquake victims. The bond of the Jubilee and with the Florence Congress

Countdown for the national Eucharistic Congress that will bring the different expressions of the Italian Church to convene in Genova, September 15-18, around the theme: “Eucharist: the fountainhead of the mission. In your Mercy you have embraced us all.” Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genova, CEI President, delegate of Pope Francis to the Congress, hereby describes the atmosphere ahead of the event. He announced one of its fruits: the mission of youths for youths. In the closing Mass in Kennedy Square offerings will be devolved to the victims of the earthquake in central Italy. The crucifix of the town of Amatrice, suspended halfway between the earth and the sky, is the drive to rediscover the warmth of belonging. The strong bond tying the Jubilee to the Florence Congress.

The National Eucharistic Congress returns to Genova after nearly a century. What is the climate in what will soon become the “spiritual capital” of Italy?

There are great expectations and anticipation, in an active way. This spiritual anticipation is marked by prayers and deep spiritual consciousness, a message of attention of the Christian community, which has been preparing for the event with various initiatives. It can be said that
the Congress is awaited with beautiful spiritual awareness,ahead of an event that will involve the entire Catholic Church in its various expressions.

The Congress will be a moment of charity, catechesis, and prayer, which is not detached from the tragic reality of the past days. During Sunday’s closing Mass offerings will be collected for the victims of the earthquake in central Italy…

From celebrated to witnessed Eucharist

The initiative in favour of our brothers and sisters victims of the earthquake is a choice motivated by charity and mission, the two fundamental results of liturgical experience. In the Eucharist the body and blood of Christ donated for us bring us close to those in need, to proclaim the grace of the Gospel and its liberating message of hope.

We have all been struck by the image of the Crucifix hanging in the tent, suspended between the earth and the sky, during the funerals in Amatrice. In the darkest moments, Italians need to feel the embrace of their fellow citizens. Can Eucharistic liturgy prompt the rediscovery of the warm feeling of belonging?

Absolutely. Nowadays many people experience deep loneliness, for culture and society are based entirely on precarious relations, which are not authentic and solid, but fragile. Liquid society is not a slogan or a suggestive formula: everyone is alone with himself, with his own total autonomy. But by paradox, precisely from the barren loneliness made of fragile, liquid relations, the primary need for God emerges stronger than ever before, as we have seen, for example, with the large crowds of youths gathered in Krakow for the World Youth Day with the Pope.

Two strong ties to the Congress: with the Holy Year of Mercy, especially on Friday, and with the Florence Congress, especially on Saturday. What is the program?

Friday will be devoted to works of mercy. Approximately 50 groups will depart from the cathedral to visit an equal number of works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, disseminated across various parts of the city. The following day will be characterised by catechesis devoted to the Eucharist and to the five verbs proclaimed in Florence (exit, announce, live, educate, transfigure) in ten churches of the historic centre.

Two facilities for the homeless are the works and signs of the Eucharistic Congress. What other concrete fruits do you expect from the Days in Genova and which pastoral proposals will be presented to the dioceses?

Since the onset of the path of preparation for the Congress I asked the priests to raise the awareness of lay Catholics on the importance of attending Mass also during the week. I am deeply convinced about its importance, and I don’t think it’s an impossible task. Another concrete fruit of the Eucharistic Congress will be a mission of youths for youths: young people in the dioceses have been preparing themselves for the whole year, and they will be the ones to share this proposal here, as a missionary fruit of the Eucharistic Congress and a sign of mission for the Italian Church as a whole. Two facilities for the homeless will provide meals, shelter during the night and breakfast to their guests in the western and eastern areas of the city. I hope that Christian communities living near these areas will open their hearts and minds to these people with concrete support and closeness. Building facilities is not as important as their management, for the intention is not only to set up centres but giving them a soul.

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