In the Pope’s concluding message to the 51st Eucharistic Congress that recently took place in the Philippines he called on Catholics to follow the example of Christ, who ate with sinners and outcasts.
The Pope’s video-message was streamed to thousands of Catholics waiting at the shrine of San Pedro in Cebu city on Sunday. They had gathered for the last day of a week-long celebration of the Eucharist attended by thousands of Catholic clergy and laity.
In his message Pope Francis asked Catholics to reflect on two gestures of Jesus, which he said are at the heart of missionary discipleship: “table fellowship and the washing of feet”.
“We know how important it was for Jesus to share meals with his disciples,” Francis said, “but also, and especially, with sinners and the outcasts…at each Eucharist, the table of the Lord’s Supper, we should be inspired to follow his example by reaching out to others in a spirit of respect and openness, in order to share with them the gift we have received”.
He went on to say that this example of inclusion and unity can “open hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit who leads them to Christ the Saviour”.
“We are called to bring the balm of God’s merciful love to the whole human family, binding up wounds, bringing hope where despair so often seems to have the upper hand,” he said.
Francis also spoke of the “humble service” of Jesus that Catholics are called to follow, epitomised by the washing of the Disciples feet at the Last Supper.
This year’s Congress was opened by the Pope’s envoy, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar. The senior cleric declared a war on poverty in his welcoming address.
Cardinal Bo was the main celebrant of the opening Mass together with six other cardinals and over 250 bishops. Local reports say 350,000 people were present at the Mass.
Pope Francis concluded his message to this year's Congress by announcing that the host country for the next Eucharistic Congress in 2020 will be Hungary.