For even the most casual observer, it was obvious that there was really too much going on in too many places at the same time at the 40th International Eucharistic Congress.
Those attending spent a lot of time trying to decide what not to miss in the daily programmes of the Congress.
Almost every day of the Congress there were about 40 different events, with half of them taking place in the evening. So many lectures by top draw speakers took place at the same Lime at widely separated parts of the city.
Journalists and pilgrims alike faced the dilemma. If one attended a morning liturgical ceremony one had to miss a symposium or a seminar on the many important subjects discussed here.
In the afternoons, there were Masses for Australian Of international groups as well as special film shows, concerts, lectures, and other events.
Each evening there was a major liturgical celebration at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds in addition to the lectures, movies, the performance by the Sistine Choir and international dance groups.
Most of the lectures were sellouts with an average attendance of up to 3,000. Still, the local parish renewal programmes drew overflow congregations, and the major cricket ground ceremonies were well attended.
Even the Australian media had U tough time attempting to give adequate coverage to the Eucharistic Congress. Dozens of local reporters were assigned all over town, but much was missed and was never reported in print.
Television camera crews worked overtime, dashing from one point of the city to another, and each TV news programme had its special segment of congress coverage.
Commercial and noncommercial TV stations all over the country gave prominence to the activities of Pope Paul's legate, Cardinal Lawrence Shehan of Baltimore.
The script of this Eucharistic Congress was different from that of any other. It was centred around the year-long renewal programme of the Melbourne archdiocese, which in turn was based on the study of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
Not on the script for the Congress was a walk out by five of the 300 aborigines attending a conference to discuss their problems and make recommendations on what the Catholic Church should do for them.
The five dissidents accused the organisers of using them as "exhibition niggers". Bat another group of delegates led by Mr. Dominic Kolumboort denied this.
Mr. Kolumboort said he was at a loss to understand why anyone should call him an exhibition nigger. He added: "For one thing I don't know what a 'nigger' is. For another I don't understand what the walk out is all about."• These 'charges and refutations generated a certain amount of heat. But they were positively cool compared to the overheated attack launched on the media in the report of a seminar which met under the auspices of the Congress.
"Wars have bled this century white and much of the responsibility for this must lie at the feet of the media," the report stated.
"World Peace remains just a dream until understanding between peoples becomes real. And to build this understanding, we rely heavily on the media. It is, of course true that the failure of the mass media to build this international understanding is basically the failure of our civilisation and of our culture.
"It is not sufficient for the media to merely reflect the values and presuppositions of our culture. This will not bring understanding and peace. This is too close to culture monoply, and from the point of view of other cultures can rightly be called 'cultural imperialism'."
The report said the mass media must help evaluate a nation's culture and offer a constructive critique or values, life-styles and institutions that will bring greater justice, harmony and cooperation. In the international sphere, the report said, the media must provide an in-depth review of economic power, showing how Western privilege keeps the Third World (of underdeveloped nations) poor.
"The media can take a leading role in promoting understanding between races and natiorts," the report said. "The media can become 'world power number one for peace.' Peace depends on understanding. And to understand other cultures we must look at them from within."
The seminar urged all those in the media to "offer the peoples of the world a deeper and broader picture of the differing races and cultures so that the media communicators can really become a first-rate power for peace."
Also at the Congress was Mother Teresa who works among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta.
Her presence highlighted the attempt by the organisers to show the value of the Eucharist in ordinary life.
Many of the aborigines in Melbourne for the Congress came from the Murinbata tribe. They took part in an Aboriginal Mass held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The evolution of Eucharistic Congresses in recent years has been iiilluenced by those who feel the need to serve the world, to study the aspirations of mankind and to seek to clarify and underline the essential line between the Eucharist and life.
Cardinal-elect James Knox of Melbourne perhaps summed up best the response to those who think the Eucharist is being neglected at the expense of issues. He said in his welcome to "The Congress programme is a vast one and may appear quite varied and complex. It is, however, inspired and unified by the theme and the motto which Pope Paul has given us, the new commandment, 'Love one another as I have loved you.'
"I am confident, therefore, that by sharing in the liturgical func tions. the seminars, conferences and exhibitions, we can perceive more clearly the link between religion and life and come to realise more fully that the Blessed Eucharist indeed contains the Church's entire spiritual wealth, that is, Jesus Christ, our Passover and Living Bread."
Gerard E. Sherry