The Eucharist is also service

  • June 21, 2008

Cardinal Marc Ouellet chafes under the criticism that his pride and joy — the International Eucharistic Congress — is little more than a week-long piety-fest. So he's been chafing a bit more than usual this week as secular media here in Quebec have focused as much on such criticism as it has on actually covering the event.

In fact, even a couple of Quebec priests have joined the fun, arguing in articles in Le Devoir and elsewhere that the congress didn't focus enough on the Church's mission to serve the poor, feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted, etc.

So he took more than a little satisfaction in one small event that took place Friday afternoon here at Expo City. In one of the event's larger pavillions the cardinal, surrounded by numerous dignitaries, as well as Cardinal Jozef Tomko, the papal legate to the congress, he gratefully received $212,000 for his Cardinal Marc Ouellet Foundation.

"The tradition of the International Eucharistic Congresses is that one social work is left in the host community as a heritage," he said. "Quebec will be no different."

"This is a long-term initiative of the Catholic Church which meets a social need."

The money came in two forms: $162,000 raised by the congress itself through the registration fees, and $50,000 from an anonymous donor. That boosts the three-year-old foundation's endowment to $312,000.

The foundation helps support projects that aid refugees and immigrants to establish themselves in Canadian society. The cardinal, having spent 10 years of his earlier life as a priest in Colombia, has been keenly aware of the difficulties facing immigrants as they tackle the cultural obstacles they face in their new homes. The cardinal's foundation doesn't discriminate on the basis of race or religion in determining who gets its financial support.

"Some comments and criticism of the Eucharistic Congress have questioned the place of the social dimension (at the Congress)," he said. "But anyone would notice this week that this criteria is unfounded."

The cardinal pointed to not just this particular donation, but to many other aspects of the Congress. Among them:

  • The press conference June 20 sponsored by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace featuring Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. There, the cardinal pushed Canadians to support the organization's campaign for ethical mining overseas by Canadian companies.
  • The landless peasant event the evening of June 20, again sponsored by Development and Peace. This overnight event focused attention on the Landless Rural Workers Movement in South America.
  • Talks on the Eucharist and the poor and the Eucharist and liberation
  • Missionary activities in the community all week long.
  • Jean Vanier's moving address urging participants to open their hearts to the poor and weak.
  • Cardinal Ouellet's own forceful call on the governments of the world to do more to help alleviate suffering caused by skyrocketing food prices. This came in his homily during the June 16 Mass.

But there hasn't been much news of these events in mainstream media. Pity.


For more coverage by the Catholic Register on the 49th International Eucharistic Congress see:

You’ll know they are pilgrims by their backpacks

Your TV eye on the Eucharistic Congress

This just in from head office

Rain or applause?

There's plenty of elbow room

Why is it always a United Church?

Where are young priests? Right here

Something old, something new

Those clerics are everywhere

More on the numbers front

Spending a little quiet time with Jesus

New priests bring new life to church

We're all softies at heart



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