The 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) opened with the characteristic warm festivity only Cebuanos can pull off. It was held at the historic Plaza Independencia.
Just before the opening Mass, the delegates and local faithful who took part in the celebration were treated with what Fr. Marty Macasaet, SDB, describes as a “rousing, magnificent Welcome Program, featuring a song-and-dance re-enactment of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.”
Fr. Macasaet concelebrated in the IEC opening Mass along with more than 1,500 priests, and with over 200 bishops and 10 cardinals.
In the first part of the Mass, the appointment letter of the Papal Legate was read. The letter, originally published in Latin, and is dated November 18, makes official the delegation of Pope Francis for Cardinal Charles Maung Bo to represent him in the 51st IEC celebration. Cardinal Bo is from the archdiocese of Yangon, Myanmar and himself a Salesian of Don Bosco.
After which, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu delivered the salutation to Cardinal Charles Bo.
In his homily, Cardinal Bo called Pope Francis as the prophet of the new millennium and hailed the Philippines “as a great nation, a light to Asia,” for the presence of Filipinos means evangelization. Quoting the late Jesuit bishop Francisco Claver, he pointed out how the Philippines appeared to have been merited the disaster capital of the world due to the natural calamities that strike the country, and yet, the Filipinos have shown how resilient they are!
He peppered his homily with Filipino and Cebuano languages to the delight of the local faithful. “Pope Francis loves you very much. Ang atong Santo Padre gihigugma kamo’ng tanan. Kayo’ng lahat ay mahal na mahal ng Santo Padre,” Cardinal Bo said, which elicited applause from the congregation, which was estimated to reach about 350,000.
His Eminence emphasized that, “Devotion is good. But it is not enough insofar as we are called to be disciples.” He then pointed out that devotion is different from discipleship, for the Mass of a devotee ends in an hour, but the Mass of a disciple is unending; the Mass of a devotee is done in a clean altar while the Mass of a disciple continues in the streets.”
The homily of Cardinal Bo was spirited that it went beyond to the realm of faith in order to call the attention of the people that the poor and the Eucharist are inseparable, for “The love of the Eucharist calls us to love the poor.”
“The greatest terrorism, the greatest mortal sin is seeing a child die of starvation,” he furthered.