CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING
Archbishop Albert Legatt of Saint-Boniface, Man., incenses the Blessed Sacrament following a Mass for Canadian pilgrims at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin June 11.
The Church in Ireland is on the path to renewal, Church leaders told pilgrims at the opening Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress June 10.
In his homily at the June 10 opening Mass, the papal legate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, prayed the congress would "bring a special blessing to Ireland at this turbulent time."
He noted how "the Church in Ireland is suffering and faces many new and serious challenges of the faith."
He continued that "well aware of these challenges, we turn together to our Lord, who renews, heals and strengthens the faith of his people."
The former archbishop of Quebec said he knew from his own experience as host of the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress "that an event such as this brings many blessings to the local Church and to all the participants."
Referring to the Irish missionary tradition, Ouellet said Ireland's "strong history of faithfulness has enriched not only these shores, but has, through her missionary sons and daughters, helped to bring the Gospel to many far-distant shores."
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the 12,500 pilgrims gathered on a rugby pitch that "the Church in Ireland is on the path to renewal.
"It will be a lengthy journey. It requires renewed and vigorous new evangelization, a renewal in faith and in coherent and authentic witness to that faith in the world and in the culture in which we live.
"The 50 years since the Second Vatican Council have brought many graces to the Church in Ireland. The message and teaching of the council still constitute the blueprint for our renewal," he said.
CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING
A priest prays in front of a monstrance during Eucharistic Adoration at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin June 11.
However, he added that "those 50 years have also been marked with a darker side, of sinful and criminal abuse and neglect of those weakest in our society: children, who should have been the object of the greatest care and support and Christ-like love.
"We recall all those who suffered abuse and who still today bear the mark of that abuse and may well carry it with them for the rest of their lives. In a spirit of repentance, let us remember each of them in the silence of our hearts," he said.
While the mood was decidedly upbeat and celebratory during the Mass, one point in the liturgy was designated to remember and seek forgiveness from those who had been abused by priests and religious.
Officials unveiled a "healing stone" engraved with a prayer originally used in the Liturgy of Lament celebrated in Dublin's pro-cathedral in February 2011.
The prayer, which was sent to Martin by a survivor of abuse, reads: "Lord, we are so sorry for what some of us did to your children: treated them so cruelly, especially, in their hour of need.
"We have left them with a lifelong suffering. This was not your plan for them or us. Please help us to help them. Guide us, Lord, Amen."
Following consultation, including abuse survivors, it was agreed the stone would be an appropriate symbol for the congress.
Father Kevin Doran, secretary-general of the congress, said: "Stone speaks of permanence. To say something is 'carved in stone' is to say that it is here to stay rather than just a passing thought. The stone represents the firm determination to work for healing and renewal."
Mary McConville, 91, attended the last time the International Eucharistic Congress was held in Ireland - in 1932 - when she was a child and said she was delighted to attend the 2012 event.
"I remember the excitement of it when I was 11 years old as if it was yesterday," McConville said.
"It is absolutely amazing to be here today. I have as much faith in the Church now as I ever had. This is a marvellous occasion," she said.
John Walsh, who travelled with his wife and five children to the congress from the west of Ireland, said it was "great for my children to see this beautiful celebration of faith and share their Catholicism with people from all over the world who have come to Dublin."
Mary Ward of Dublin also noted the international attendance. "We really are a global Church, we can learn a lot from others," she said.