In previous posts I’ve mentioned the International Eucharistic Congress, scheduled for Dublin in June 2012. It seems to me that the Congress is an opportunity for the Irish Catholic Church, embroiled as it is in the fall-out from the child sexual abuse scandals, to reach out both to disaffected (former) Catholics and Christians of other denominations.
My fear is, of course, that this won’t happen – that the Eucharistic Congress will become an occasion for the retrenchment of an old-style expression of Irish Catholicism – an expression of Catholicism that is now seen by some as having led the church down a path that is out of step with the way of Jesus.
I think getting back into step with the way of Jesus requires a humbler church, one that will see the Eucharistic Congress as an opportunity for repentance (as indeed the Eucharist is and should be for individual Christians) and for extending fellowship to those who are presently excluded.
Clonard Monastery in West Belfast, well-known for its ecumenical vision, is hosting an event on Tuesday 14 September to explore possible ecumenical dimensions of the Eucharistic Congress.
The event will be held from 11.00 am-12.30 pm and include two ten minute presentations by Fr Eddie McGee on ‘The local ecumenical dimension of the International Eucharistic Congress’ and Methodist minister Dennis Cooke on ‘The Grace of the Eucharist.’ The presentations will be followed by small group discussion, questions for the speakers, and an open forum to explore next steps.
Fr Gerry Reynolds has written a short reflection on the Eucharistic Congress on the Clonard webpage. He notes that the ‘ecumenical celebration of the Eucharistic Congress is already in place,’ because the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, has accepted Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s invitation to preside at ‘a special celebration on the second day of the International Congress.’
I was not aware of this dimension to the Congress, and I’m heartened by it. I’m also encouraged by Fr Reynolds words:
I believe that the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress, to be celebrated in Dublin June 10th to 17th, is a “kairos” – a time of God’s special favour –not only for Catholics but also for all the Christian Churches in Ireland. The Congress theme focuses everyone on the bond of divine grace which unites us all – communion with Christ and with one another – our shared ecclesial reality.
… The Congress theme challenges the Churches in Ireland to find creative ways to manifest and proclaim together the grace which unites us to Christ and to one another. God’s Spirit will surely show us such ways if we search for them together in faith and friendship. For “God must be allowed to surprise us”. The Congress is an invitation to Eucharistic renewal for every Catholic parish and indeed for every local congregation of the other Churches. I believe that some shared grassroots ecumenical preparation for it can enhance our response to this call.
As a layperson, what frustrates me about conversations around Eucharistic sharing is the proclamations from church authorities and/or theologians that ‘it can’t be done.’
I find this hard to believe – especially in the light of Christ’s prayer for unity among Christians in John 17. But I also have to appreciate the efforts of people like Fr Reynolds, who respect the current prohibitions, yet try to ‘find creative ways to manifest and proclaim together the grace which unites us to Christ and to one another.’