JULY COULD be most important marker for the Church in England since the National Pastoral Congress. Indeed it stands midway between that and the Pope's visit to Britain next year.
It is the Eucharistic Congress at Lourdes. from July 16 to 23. The Pope will be there for the last days, and this gives a hint that it is important for the whole Church.
It will not be as big as past congresses where crowds of more than a million have gathered. But its theme is Jesus Christ — bread broken for a new world, and the 60,000 delegates from around the globe are expected to carry its impetus back to their local communities.
It will be in Lourdes, the Marian centre, and one of its aims as proposed in December by Pope John Paul will be to stop for a while in contemplation along with 'Mary, our Mother. It will mean a lot to France. the host country.
Of course there are other shrines in France. from the Rue du Bac in Paris to the astonishing rock pinnacle churches of Le Puy. where the Crusading bishop Adhemar had his seat and where he was reputed to have composed the chant for the Salve Regina. But Lourdes is the biggest pilgrimage centre of any religion in the world.
This is the Congress programme: Each day has a different theme. Thursday 16 July, opening of the Congress.
Friday, 17 July, the Church gathers from the ends of the Earth.
Saturday, 18 July, the Church proclaims the Word of God. Sunday. 19 July. the Church gives thanks to the Father, Monday 20 July. the Church remembers Christ who brings freedom and reconciliation.
Tuesday, 21 July. the Church
invokes the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday, 22 July, the Church in communion with the body of Christ.
Thursday, 23 July, the Church participates in the mission of Christ.
During the days there will be the Eucharist. Eucharistic devotions. holy Hours, Penance Services, Conferences with leading Christian figures, Debates, Forums on the theme of the Congress, songs. prayer vigils, world-wide artistic, cultural and musical exchange, and so on.
Above all the programme will be about how the Congressists, gathered from many different lands, of different race and religion, live together as the One Body of Christ. drawing strength and meaning from the Eucharist.
The recently-appointed National Co-ordinator is Fr Jonathan Cotton, OSB. His address is 5 Brentwood Avenue, Aigburth, Liverpool 17. Telephone during office hours on 051728 8155.
He gave roe some clues to what the Congress is about. It is a gathering of the People of God. the Body of Christ on earth. representatives of their local or national Church. to pay honour to the Sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ, by prayer, meditation. and study.
It is a special period of time. set aside. to focus on what is the central meaning of the Church's life, and so of Mankind's life.
St Paul stressed this "Because there is only one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."
St Thomas Aquinas called the Eucharist the greatest of Christ's miracles and defined it as "the Sacrament of unity of the Church'', an eloquent outward sign of our unity, and also the
actual means of our becoming so. This congress is particularly significant.
• It is the 100th anniversary of the first Eucharistic Congress at Lille. France.
• There is world-wide preparation on the theme of the Congress. "Jesus Christ, Bread broken for a new world".
• The Congress will be more fully international than ever, with 120 countries sending delegates. The total number of delegates will be relatiyely small. only 60,000.
• The Congress will be more consciously' ecumenical than ever. in keeping with the Church's life today,
• The expression of the WorldWide Body of Christwill be made practical, in keeping with the reality of today's world, by the richer part of the Church assisting Third World Delegates.
• The reality of the Church will be more striking by the representatives of the universal Church being gathered around the Vicar of Christ. Pope John Paul IL many Cardinals and Bishops.
Bishop Holland of Salford is the English and Welsh delegate Bishop.