Cardinal sees eucharistic congress battling growing secularism

By  Ron Stang, Catholic Register Special
  • April 30, 2007
WINDSOR, Ont. - Next year’s 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City will allow a renewal of faith by connecting with the “source and summit” of Christian life, the Eucharist, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
The congress takes place June 15-22, 2008 in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, in a province and country increasingly marked by secularization, Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec City and primate of Canada, told an audience at Assumption University here April 22.

Ouellet said the Congress' purpose is to "give new life to our consciousness of the Christian roots of our country" at a time when Canadian society is "marked by the secularization of mindset and habit shown by religious indifference" and which Pope John Paul II labelled the "culture of death."

Ouellet mentioned that Quebec in particular, over the past four decades or during the period of societal change brought on by the Quiet Revolution, was going through "difficult times" and the church "needs very much the solidarity of the rest of the country" in prayer.

The cardinal was at Assumption to receive the university's annual Christian Culture Gold Medal award, bestowed on a person who is an "outstanding exponent of Christian ideals." He spoke on the topic of A Culture of the Eucharist for a Civilization of Love.

Ouellet noted not just society's increasing secularization but the tumult shaking the early years of the third millennium, such as terrorism, ethnic and religious divide and "violence that seems to have no end." He attributed this in part to the strains of globalization.

The cardinal implored the audience to seize the moment and help steer the world away from a track of "alienation and injustice" and towards "humanization." And, he said, one of the best ways Catholics can do this is by embracing the gift of the Eucharist.

"The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life," he said, and its chief exponents have been Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI,   "for in living deeply the Christian life we are touching the core of our ecclesial life and existence."

The cardinal added that he hopes the congress will inspire a "new evangelization" because even Christian culture "forgets its roots and allows itself to be dominated by influences which are foreign to its traditions and its values." These include the breakdown of marriage and the family, certain ethical positions and "widespread abandonment of religious practice and ignorance of basic Christian truths."

Ouellet pointed to young people as a potential source of renewal leading up to the congress and in the church generally, exemplified by their fervent enthusiasm in recent past gatherings.

"They feel the presence, something is happening, the heart is touched," he said.

In relation to this, he pointed to the iconic object that had been placed on the stage near him, The Ark of the New Covenant, a wooden miniature ark containing various forms of eucharistic symbolism. These include a seat for Christ under a monstrance, a chest containing the Bible and Scriptures, and images representing scenes like The Last Supper, the Vigil of Mary and the Resurrection. The ark is being taken from community to community in advance of the congress.

In his speech, the cardinal said the Eucharist is central to Catholic chaplaincy, which he called "the nerve centre or heart of a Catholic university." Assumption closed its chaplaincy several years ago as a cost-saving measure.

(Stang is a freelance writer in Windsor, Ont.)

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