“The Eucharist is the source for the life and mission of Christians,” Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, said addressing opening mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest on Sunday.
The cardinal prayed to God that participants, “especially during the week of the congress”, would feel “Christ is with us at the Eucharist, and he will not abandon the Church, peoples or mankind”.
Erdő welcomed Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, the first celebrant of the opening mass, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the foreign affairs office of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as 1,200 children receiving first communion.
Bagnasco told the gathering that “Christ’s light radiates through the Church despite all the weaknesses and sins of its members”. “You are not alone in the middle of a hostile universe … wherever you are, God will look down on you with his love,” the cardinal said, adding that “the Eucharist will overcome any solitude, distance and indifference”.
The opening mass was concelebrated by 100 bishops and some 300 priests. The participants filled Heroes’ Square and a part of Andrassy Avenue.
The event was attended by President János Áder and First Lady Anita Herczegh, Anikó Lévai, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s wife, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, András Zs. Varga, the president of the supreme court, Human Resources Minister Miklós Kásler, Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt, and other dignitaries.
Between Monday and Friday, lectures on Christian subjects will be offered all day at the Hungexpo grounds, while concerts and other performances will be held in Széll Kalman and Örs vezer squares in the afternoons.
Concerts, folk dance performances and book shows will also be held in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
The Congress’s closing mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis at Heroes’ Square next Sunday. Hungary is hosting the event for the second time since 1938. Originally scheduled to be held in 2020, the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.