It took one hundred ten years for the Catholics of England and Wales to take the Blessed Sacrament in procession during a Eucharist Congress. In 1908 the government of liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith cancelled it for fear of disorders, after extremist Protestant groups denounced it as a violation of anti-Catholic legislation. King Edward VII had just attended a Holy Mass and the public demonstration of Catholicism was the last straw. A serious crisis erupted that forced Home Minister Herbert Gladstone to resign.
“Today things have changed”, said the auxiliary bishop of Birmingham Robert Byrne, President of “Adoremus”, the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Liverpool September 7-9, “The Catholic Church is an integral part of society; she is present at a much greater level compared to one hundred years ago and is longer perceived as a foreign threat. All Christian leaders in Liverpool will join us in the street procession that concludes the Congress, walking behind the Blessed Sacrament that was abolished in 1908.” “I suggested to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Primate, to organize a national Congress in the period between the international Congresses of 2016 and 2010, as an opportunity for Catholics to come together and celebrate their faith, and to show the rest of the Country all the positive things that we are doing for the good of society: in hospitals, in projects for the poor and in schools, in the peripheries as we are asked of by Pope Francis”, said bishop Byrne. “After the difficult years of abuse scandals we can finally send a positive message.”
Could you illustrate the program?
We start on Friday September 7 with a reflection symposium that will be attended by approximately two thousand people, including teachers, catechists, laity and priests. On Saturday as many as ten thousand people will gather in Liverpool’s “Echo Arena” to attend the Holy Mass and to listen to speakers that include US bishop Robert Barron, renowned in the English-speaking world. The Congress will end on Sunday with a public demonstration of our Eucharistic faith in the procession with the Blessed Sacrament. It’s the highlight of the Congress, we will walk for two kilometres through the streets of Liverpool together with five thousand people.
Do you expect the Congress to be successful or is this word inappropriate for a religious event of this kind?
I think that what’s most important is to encourage participants in their Eucharistic faith, and “Adoremus” is an excellent tool to achieve that goal. The Eucharist is the fountainhead of our life and its fulfilment, through which Christ is present among us. Our Christian faith is built on the relationship with Jesus, and through the Eucharist we deepen that relationship.
At the Congress you will give major emphasis to Eucharistic Adoration, available for the faithful at any moment.
Adoration brings us to the Holy Mass and to the Eucharist. When we are alone with the Lord we deepen our love for Him and we enable Him to speak to our heart. We thus appreciate what we live in the Eucharist in a new way.
Which are the most popular sessions of the event?
Seven hundred people have registered for a session on the Eucharist scheduled for Friday September 7, which will focus on a document titled “One bread, one body”, published by the bishops in 1998. We wished to offer a comprehensive program in order to meet the different needs of the faithful in the areas of liturgy, music and catechesis. We created a committee of five bishops who meet on a regular basis to organize “Adoremus.”
What’s the major need of the Catholic Church of England and Wales which you have tried to respond to with “Adoremus”?
Evangelization. We live in increasingly secularised societies, especially in Great Britain, where people have forgotten about God. A markedly anti-religious agenda underlies a seemingly liberal, tolerant program. The intention is to eliminate religion from the public sphere, reducing it to a private activity. Organized religion challenges the mentality of our modern times.