Reconciliation is essential to Eucharist

By  Catholic News Service
  • June 20, 2008

{mosimage}QUEBEC CITY - An international gathering of Catholics to focus on the Eucharist would be missing something essential if there were no sacrament of Reconciliation.

To that end, Quebec City's exposition grounds, where the 49th International Eucharistic Congress is taking place all week, were turned into a massive “City of Forgiveness” June 19 in order to prepare the hearts of the faithful for the Eucharist. Hundreds of priests heard countless confessions, seated in nooks and crannies around the Expo City, and thousands of pilgrims availed themselves of the sacrament.

Christians have to “present ourselves in front of the Father in the nakedness of the Prodigal Son” in order to prepare their hearts for the eucharistic feast, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the prefect for the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, told the group in a morning penitential liturgy.

“Jesus died out of love so humanity could once again trust in the love of the Father,” Hummes said in his homily in Le Colisee Pepsi.

While humanity longs for this love, they also fear it, he added. Just as Herod feared little children and killed the first born of Israel in his attempts to root out the infant Jesus at His birth, today's society fears God's redeeming love.

“We have to become like little children because the child is always receiving and receiving in trust,” Hummes said.

To obtain forgiveness for our sins is “intricately related to our participation in the eucharistic meal. The altar can literally be called the table of reconciliation.”

The Brazilian cardinal's comments came at the end of a moving service whose highlight was a dramatization of reconciliation modelled loosely on the story of the Prodigal Son. In the drama created by Montreal's Fr. Robert Gendron, two brothers, played by actors Gilbert Karanta and Joe Cacchione, debate the nature of their sins and lament their broken relationship with their father, played by Alain Gendreau. In the end, they ask for forgiveness and are welcomed back to the father's table.

“We all have need of pardon and reconciliation,” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec City and primate of the Catholic Church in Canada.

“Priests, too, bishops, too.”

The cardinal said all the pilgrims were invited to participate in the sacrament before joining a massive eucharistic procession through the 400-year-old streets of Quebec. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people were expected to participate in the procession.

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