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Eucharistic Congresses


These are large assemblies that may be international, national, regional, or local, which seek to deepen understanding of, and devotion to, the eucharist by gathering "an individual local church," or "the entire local church," or even all the churches "of a single region or nation or even of the entire world" for the sake of manifesting "some aspect of the eucharistic mystery" and expressing through public worship "the bond of charity and unity" (HCWE 109).

Historically, the origins of eucharistic congresses can be traced back to the work of Marie Marthe Emilia Tamisier (d. 1910), who first encouraged pilgrimages to places in her native France where Eucharistic miracles were commemorated: Avignon, Ars, Douai, Paris, and Paray-le-Monial. The experience of seeing about 60 members of the French Parliament kneel in Margaret Mary Alacoque's chapel at Paray-le-Monial and pledge themselves to resist the secularist policies of the French government convinced Tamisier of the potential that could be unleashed if Christians were brought together to profess their faith in the Eucharist and in the teachings of Christ. Thus, at the outset there was a sociopolitical dimension to such gatherings, especially in places where conflict between Church and culture was acute.

A Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses was instituted in 1879 by Pope Leo XIII. More than a century later (1986), it was established with new statutes by Pope John Paul II. The first attempts at organizing a eucharistic congress in Europe failed, but one was eventually held at the University of Lille in June of 1881 with 800 people attending from Belgium, England, Spain, France, Holland, and Switzerland. Numerous such meetings followed, and it became customary for the pope to honor the international Eucharistic congress by the presence of a legate, a latere. After the congress at Lourdes in 1914 meetings were interrupted by World War I. At the congress in Rome, 1922, Pope Pius XI decreed that future meetings be held every two years. From then until World War II regular international congresses were held including meetings in Africa, South America, Australia, and the Philippines. International congresses were resumed in 1952, and have continued (at irregular intervals) until the present time.

A list of international Eucharistic congresses follows: (1) Lille, 1881; (2) Avignon, 1882; (3) Liège, 1883;

(4) Fribourg, 1885; (5) Toulouse, 1886; (6) Paris, 1888;(7) Antwerp, 1890; (8) Jerusalem, 1893; (9) Reims, 1894;(10) Paray-le-Monial, 1897; (11) Brussels, 1898; (12) Lourdes, 1899; (13) Angers, 1901; (14) Namur, 1902;(15) Angouleme, 1904; (16) Rome, 1905; (17) Tournai, 1906; (18) Metz, 1907; (19) London, 1908; (20) Cologne, 1909; (21) Montreal, 1910; (22) Madrid, 1911; (23) Vienna, 1912; (24) Malta, 1913; (25) Lourdes, 1914; (26) Rome, 1922; (27) Amsterdam, 1924; (28) Chicago, 1926;(29) Sydney, 1928; (30) Carthage, 1930; (31) Dublin, 1932; (32) Buenos Aires, 1934; (33) Manilla, 1937; (34) Budapest, 1938; (35) Barcelona, 1952; (36) Rio de Janeiro, 1955; (37) Munich, 1960; (38) Bombay, 1964; (39) Bogata, 1968; (40) Melbourne, 1973; (41) Philadelphia, 1976; (42) Lourdes, 1981; (43) Nairobi, 1985; (44) Seoul, 1989; (45) Seville, 1993; (46) Wroclaw, Poland, 1997;(47) Rome, 2000.

Bibliography: n. mitchell, Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (New York 1982). Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, I Congressi Eucaristici Internazionali per una Nuova Evangelizzaione (Vatican City 1991).

[n. mitchell]

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