(Yangon Archbishop Charles Maung Cardinal Bo during the opening mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu yesterday, Jan. 24. Photo by Angeli Mae S. Cantillana)

January 25, 2016, 8:24p.m. – CEBU CITY—POPE FRANCIS’ representative to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) called on the faithful on Sunday to embark on a “third world war” against poverty.

At the Opening Mass of the 51st IEC at the Plaza Independencia, Yangon Archbishop Charles Maung Cardinal Bo urged thousands of pilgrims to use the Eucharist in bringing hope to the poor, pointing to widespread starvation and malnutrition which he described as “genocide.”

Living out the Eucharist, he said, requires a “third world war against a world that produces more weapons while more than half a billion don’t have enough food.”

“The Eucharist strips you off of your social status. It remains the beacon of equality,” Cardinal Bo said. “The love of the Eucharist helps us to love the poor,” he said.

The faithful should not confine themselves to the four corners of churches, but should go out to help the poor with the grace of the Eucharist, he added.

“Christianity offered a new version of humanity through the Eucharist,” he said. “Unity and reconciliation needs to start with the people around us.”

Cardinal Bo also hit abortion, death penalty, and euthanasia as “enemies of the Eucharist,” and called on Filipinos to stay resilient against the “culture of death and indifference” through the Eucharist.

“Devotion is good but not enough. The Mass of a devotee lasts for an hour but the Mass of a disciple is unending,” Cardinal Bo said.


‘Light of Catholicism’

The papal legate did not only deliver the homily in English, but also in Filipino and Cebuano, which drew cheers from the locals.

Cardinal Bo paid tribute to the contributions of Filipino migrants, noting that Filipinos are everywhere and that in some countries, Catholicism meant Filipino presence.

“In Hong Kong, in Cairo, in Dubai … The Filipino is in the land. The Filipino is in the wind. The Filipino is in the water. The blood of the Filipino is in every corner of the world,” he said. “You are a great nation, the light [of] Asia. Your light has shown in every part of the world through your sons and daughters whose exemplary faith has been the beacon of evangelization.”

The Opening Mass was concelebrated by bishops from around the world—including Archbishop Piero Marini, president of Pontifical Committee for the IEC, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

Before the Mass, the appointment letter of Cardinal Bo as the Pope’s representative was read. Archbishop Palma, who heads the national committee for the IEC, welcomed the pilgrims to Cebu, “the cradle of Christianity in Asia” and home to the Holy Child and San Pedro Calungsod.

During his stay in the Cebu, Cardinal Bo is expected to visit a provincial jail, a vocational school, and a training facility for the poor. 

Cebuanos mounted a grand opening for the 51st IEC, with stage performers reenacting the Christianization of the Philippines that began in Cebu, and the origins of the Filipino devotion to the Sto. Niño.

Fireworks lit up the sky to usher in a weeklong festival celebrating the Eucharist as the “source and summit of Christian life.” Gabriel M. Agcaoili and Krystel Nicole A. Sevilla


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