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Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool: the Eucharistic procession returns to the Beatles’ birthplace

The last Eucharistic Congress of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, in a Country with an Anglican majority population, dates back to 1908. But 110 years ago the Most Blessed Sacrament was not permitted to be taken in procession. Today the “climate” has changed, and the three-day meeting with prayers and theological seminars highlights its ecumenical trait. The street procession will take place on Sunday September 8 and at least ten thousand people are expected to attend. The words of Fr Nicholas Schofield, Archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and Msgr. Robert Byrne, President of the Eucharistic Congress

Immagini utilizzate per il "lancio" del Congresso eucaristico, foto della cattedrale della città e della comunità cattolica di Inghilterra e Galles

“With this Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool, the English Catholic Church concludes the mission initiated 110 years ago with the only other event of this kind on British soil. In 1908, the City of London almost turned Catholic with the arrival of Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, the first Papal Legate to set foot in England since 1550. Yet the faithful of Rome were not allowed to take the Most Blessed Sacrament in procession as a result of the protests of radical Protestant movements”, said Nicholas Schofield, Archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster, in the presentation of Adoremus, the second encounter with the Eucharist in the history of the United Kingdom that will bring together ten thousand faithful for a three-day meeting – from Friday, September 7 to Sunday, September 9 – with two venues: the arena and the Catholic Cathedral of Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles. While 110 years ago Catholics’ yearning to publically display the Eucharist sparked off a government crisis in the Protestant country, next Sunday, the outdoor Eucharistic Procession with the Most Blessed Sacrament will be jointly attended by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Primate of Catholic Church in England and Wales, by the Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon  together with the President of the Eucharistic Congress, the Auxiliary bishop of Birmingham Robert Byrne, by the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, by Methodist District Chair, Dr Sheryl Anderson,  by the Anglican bishop of Portsmouth Christopher Foster, by Orthodox leaders Gregory Hallam and Peter Farrington, along with other Christian leaders.


Three-day ecumenism. “In the past century this event would have been unconceivable”, said Bishop Robert Byrne, President of the Congress. “Despite the many similarities with the 1908 Congress, also held in September, our three-day initiative will have a stronger ecumenical trait. Today the Catholic Church is fully integrated into the public arena, while two hundred years ago Catholics were not allowed to vote, run for elections or purchase land. In fact Catholics were a persecuted minority at the time. And although we have achieved full recognition today we are faced with the challenge of secularization. Our message is still viewed as controversial in the area of bioethics, abortion, same-sex marriage and in the social domain where the Church is fully committed in providing support to the poor.” He added: “Liverpool, a traditional place of arrival of Irish migrants over the past centuries and an important Catholic city, bears the memory of all this, which the dozens of Nugent shelter homes for people with disabilities, young people in difficulty and senior citizens, testify to.”

Theology, prayer and witness. “For us Catholics of England and Wales the Congress is an opportunity to reflect together and pray, to share moments of joy thanking God for the many blessings he has given us. At the same time we pledge to be more united as a Church, stepping up our bonds with our Christian brothers of other faiths”, pointed out the President of “Adoremus.” “The program was designed in this light. On Friday a Theological Symposium will focus on the different dimensions of the Eucharist, due to be attended by some two thousand people including teachers, catechists, lay faithful and priests. On Saturday the Echo Arena in Liverpool – which can accommodate up to ten thousand people – will be the venue of a Holy Mass and of keynote speeches by bishops renowned in the Anglo-Saxon world, such as US Bishop Robert Barron. 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.”

A dedicated Congress for the young. The programme of the event includes 27 workshops and a Youth Congress organized by “CYMFED” due to be attended by one thousand adolescents along with a concert by the famous “Soul Sanctuary Gospel” and an evening dedicated to the Beatles, born in Liverpool. The Eucharist will always be at the centre, for, as bishop Robert Byrne said, “it is in that bread that we encounter Christ himself and we build our unity. And it is equally important today. Through Adoration we are brought to Mass without replacing it.”

Along the path of unity. The President of “Adoremus” highlighted the ecumenical bearing of the three-day event in Liverpool. “In circumstances where intercommunion with other Christian churches is still lacking, by making an exception for the Orthodox Church the Congress will help our brothers in the faith understand what the Eucharist means for us Catholics. It will be useful, for example, for that part of the Anglican communion that still does not recognize the true presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread”, explains Bishop Byrne. “We must aim to achieve unity. This is the goal of every dialogue between Christians whilst cultivating hope, and certainly the Congress will help us in all this.”

Six million faithful. “The Congress is important not only for those who will gather in Liverpool but also for thousands of parishes in the many dioceses of England and Wales”, concluded the Archivist of Westminster Cathedral, Fr Nicholas Hudson. “That’s the reason why the bishops have decided to highlight the mystery of the Eucharist and the Adoration, so that the Congress may become an opportunity for all six million Catholic faithful in the Country to be inspired and draw close to this key moment in the life of the faith.”

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