Your Eminences, Your Excellencies,

Thank you for allowing me time to present to you something of our plans and our hopes for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which takes place in Dublin, Ireland from June 10th to June 17th 2012. We are very conscious of our historical links with the Church on the mainland of Europe. This is symbolised by the choice of St. Columbanus of Bobbio as one of the patron saints of the Congress. Columbanus, as many of you will know, established monastic foundations in France, Switzerland and in Italy. He was one of many whose ministry is still commemorated all over Europe.

Social and Ecclesial Context
The International Eucharistic Congress comes at an important moment in the history of the Irish Church, when we are seeking to:
•    renew and strengthen faith which has been greatly challenged through increasing secularism in our society
•    restore relationships of trust which have been undermined by the abuse of children by some of our clergy and by our institutional failure to manage that as well as we should
•    build up a spirit of Christian solidarity against the background of an economic crisis brought about by the thirst for power and the desire for excessive profit

It is undoubtedly providential that the Congress takes place in the same year as the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which was such an important moment in the renewal of the Church and of its engagement with the modern world.

As Blessed Pope John Paul II reminded the Roman Curia in 1990:
Koinonia is a dimension which clothes the very constitution of the Church and every expression of it: from the profession of faith to the testimony of praxis, from the transmission of doc¬trine to the articulation of structures. Rightly, then, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council insists on it, making it the inspiring idea and the central axis of its documents.

That same Koinonia is central to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. The theme of the Congress, taken from Lumen gentium 7 and approved by Pope Benedict XVI is “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another.”

Pastoral Preparation:
When we last celebrated an International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland in 1932, people came to Dublin on foot, on bicycles and by horse and cart. Many of them who are still alive and active speak about the journey to the Congress.
In our preparations for the 2012 Congress, we have also been inviting people to participate in a journey; this time and interior journey of spiritual and pastoral preparation for the Congress. We have tried to present the Congress as much more than just an event.

Our programme of preparation is in four stages and invites people to reflect on four key elements of Eucharist and of Communion, namely:
•    The meaning of Christian assembly
•    The role of the Scriptures in forming us into “one body in Christ”
•    The meaning of the Eucharist as Sacrifice and Sacrament
•    The relationship between our Christian assembly, in which we are nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, and the mission which is entrusted to us as Christians living in the world

A variety of pastoral resources has been prepared to support this programme. These and other pastoral resources are available for you on USB key which is in the information pack prepared by the Congress office. They include:
•    The Theological Reflections, available at present in four languages
•    the Congress Prayer, which is available in eight languages
•    The Congress logo, designed by an artist from my own diocese,
•    the Congress Hymn, “Though we are Many”, which has so far been translated into French and Italian

As a symbol of the invitation to the Eucharist and to the Congress, we have been using a Bell which is carried from parish to parish all over Ireland. People, young and old, have come out in large numbers to welcome the Bell and it has helped us to create an awareness of the Congress. The bell is accompanied by four specially written icons which reflect the four key themes of the pastoral preparation.

The Programme of the Congress:
The Congress week will be celebrated at the showground of the Royal Dublin, which is the venue each year for the Dublin International Horse Show. The opening Mass will be celebrated in the evening on Sunday June 10th (Corpus Christi).

The RDS is a single venue which includes a large outdoor arena and a large number of spaces which can be used for workshops and cultural events. Three of the large halls will be used as the prayer space; the exhibition hall and the youth space. The youth space will have its own dedicated programme of workshops, catechesis, prayer and music.

Each day of the Congress will have its own theme, linked to the overall theme of Eucharistic communion. These themes are as follows:
•    Monday: Communion and Baptism (with a strong ecumenical focus)
•    Tuesday: Communion, Marriage & Family (family day)
•    Wednesday: Communion and Ministry, Ordained and Lay
•    Thursday: Communion and Reconciliation
•    Friday: Communion, Suffering & Healing
•    Saturday: Communion in the Word, through Mary

The catechesis, testimonies and workshops on each day will be linked to the theme of the day. On most days, the Eucharist will be celebrated in plenary session in the main arena. On Monday, however, it will be celebrated in the morning time in parish Churches, according to language group and nationality. We hope that this will provide the opportunity for people of other nationalities living in Dublin to meet and to celebrate with pilgrims coming from their own home countries.

We are planning an extensive programme of workshops and spiritual, pastoral and cultural aspects of the Congress theme. We have already received favourable response from many of those, in various European countries, who have been invited to contribute to that programme.  

The Statio Orbis will be celebrated at Croke Park. This is a modern stadium with a long history. It is one of the largest sporting venues in Europe and home to the Gaelic Athletic Association.

The Ecumenical Dimension:
Monday deserves particular mention. On that day, we are inviting Christians of other traditions to join with us in celebrating our Baptismal Communion. The catechesis that day will be given by Bro. Alois (prior of Taizé). The principal liturgy (a celebration of the Word and Water, will be presided over by Archbishop Michael Jackson, Anglican Archbishop of Dublin).

This ecumenical dimension is not simply “for the day”. It has been part of our entire preparation of the Congress. The perception of many in Europe is that ecumenism in Ireland would be almost impossible because of our troubled history. The reality is quite different. Our troubled history makes practical ecumenism a real imperative for us. One of the important challenges facing us in modern Ireland is to build relationships which allow Christians of every tradition to bear common witness to Christ in an increasingly secular society.

Without in any sense denying the extent to which our communion is limited, we have chosen to build on what we have in common: Baptism, the Word of God; a commitment to mission. Clergy of the Anglican and Methodist traditions have contributed actively to the development of our theological reflection and our pastoral preparation programme, bringing the richness of their traditions. The Eucharistic Congress Bell has visited Churches of other Christian traditions and other Holy Places which are shared by all.

Theological Symposium:
In your pack, you have some information on the Theological Symposium which takes place from 6-9th June 2012, just before the Congress. The focus of this theological symposium is on: Ecclesial Communion 50 years after Vatican II. One day is given specifically to the consideration of the Ecumenical aspects of Ecclesial Communion.

Among the keynote speakers are Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Prof. Geoffrey Wainright, Prof. Piero Coda, Professor Dr. Martin Stuflesser

On line Registration for the Congress:
The Eucharistic Congress web-site is available in seven languages. It is a work-in-progress and the translation is being supported by volunteers in countries throughout Europe. In addition to the pastoral information available on the web-site, it is now possible to register on-line, either as an individual pilgrim or as a group. While Ireland is a relatively high-cost economy, we have chosen to keep the registration costs as low as possible, to facilitate the participation of as many people as possible.

At present we are proposing registration options for seven days or for three days, each of which brings with it the option of participating in the Statio Orbis, on Sunday June 17th.

The standard registration packages include access to the Congress and the pilgrim pack, including liturgy books and Congress programme. We have not included transport tickets or meal vouchers, because these would have increased the costs of the package for everybody. They are, however, available for those who wish to have them.
Dublin is a relatively small city, but it does have a large supply of accommodation, much of it in easy range of the Congress venues. Our conference partner CSSL, in addition to providing the registration service on our behalf, has also made arrangements to pre-reserve accommodation at the best possible rates for pilgrims. Accommodation is available in hotels, Bed and Breakfast accommodation, student residences and hostels.

Clergy Accreditation:
For obvious reasons, clergy wishing to minister at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress will require a testimonial provided by their ordinary – be that their diocesan bishop or their major religious superior. We are aware that it places a burden on you, but we are also sure that you will understand the necessity for it in the context of a major international event, in which clergy play such a pivotal role. The sooner this process begins, the better we can make sure that everything is done on schedule.

Bishops and major superiors will be asked to complete the normal registration process and accreditation will be provide by the Congress based on photographic ID.

All the necessary information about registration and accreditation is available on the Congress web-site at