Cardinal Jan Willebrands, President of the Vatican's key Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity, is attending the 40th International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne this month.
From February 18 to 25 hc will be the house guest of Sir Frank Woods, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of Australia, who jovially offered the Cardinal the "heretical environment" of his home and was just as jovially taken up.
Archbishop Woods' hospitality matches that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey. with whom Cardinal Willebrands stayed at Lambeth Palace when visiting London from Rome and who, while there not long ago, became the first Catholic since the Reformation to say Mass in the chapel of the traditional home of the heads of the Church of England.
In particular, the gesture by Dr. Woods symbolises the deeply ecumenical nature of this latest International Eucharistic Congress. it is in fact, to be a
"different" congress in many more ways than one.
As we know, the purpose of Eucharistic Congresses whether international, national, regional or local is to assemble hierarchy, clergy, members of religious orders and laity to strengthen their understanding of and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, the very heart and soul of our religion.
In Melbourne, the cjst of this month's weeklong congress will be kept within £250,000. The original budget estimate was somewhere between £1,250,000 and £1,500,000, which shook Fr. Brian Walsh, the congress's executive director, who had just returned to Melbourne from relief work in Biafra when he was appointed.
How he was able to reduce the budget so spectacularly in itself reflects the ecumenical nature of the congress. He simply% "scrounged" on all classes and creeds and the result in voluntary effort has been prodigious.
"It's marvellous," Fr. Walsh said. "Come into my office at our organising headquarters and I've got carpets donated by a Jewish firm. Thirty typewriters and other office equipment have been given by businessmen of various Chris tian faiths."
Also, on the principle that this is Australia's. not just Melbourne's, Eucharistic Congress, a large part of the expenses has been contributed by Catholics throughout Australia, by way of special church collections and the like.
The Archdiocese of Sydney and other New South Wales dioceses alone have donated more than £35,000. Archbishop James Knox. or Melbourne, described this as an outstanding ecumenical effort.
All Eucharistic Congresses have a theme. This one's is: "Love One Another as I Have Loved You." Highlighting the congress's activities will be concern for the poor and needy, the underprivileged and the handicapped, at home and abroad practical ways to act, not just talk, to solve the world's most urgent social problems will be planned.
Fr. Walsh has summed it up: "We are not holding just an extravaganza or a triumphal march," he said. "We will be dis Cussing vital social issues. We are trying to change people from being selfish individuals to being socially-minded."
To this end, some of the greatest living authorities on social problems are in Melbourne. They include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, who knows more than most about suffering and poverty at first hand and is giving people in Melbourne the full, grim, but spiritually uplifting benefit of her experience.
From a strictly Australian point of view, the outstanding event in Melbourne is likely to be a conference of Aborigines. first of its kind, at which about 1,500 Aborigines will discuss their problems and their struggle for recognition in a community whose neglect of them makes one of the most scandalous pages in Australian annals.
This conference has been organised and is being run by the Aborigines themselves. The coordinator is Mr. Patrick Dodson. an Aboriginal seminarian with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Melbourne. When he is ordained, next year, he will be Australia's first Aboriginal priest.
The Aborigines are also likely to dominate the congress's more spectacular events when an Aboriginal Mass, in English, accompanied by an Aboriginal choir and dancers, will be held in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl a magnificent open-air forum.
Pope Paul has appointed as his Legate to the congress 74-yearold Cardinal Lawrence Joseph Shehan. Archbishop of Baltimore and president of the Permanent Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.
Fifteen cardinals are among the visitors from Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada, the United States, South America and some Iron Curtain countries.
Other visitors will be Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban, one of South Africa's most outspoken anti apartheid crusaders; Bishop Holland of Salford: Bishop Cleary, Auxiliary of Birmingham; Mgr. Bruce Kent.. Catholic Chaplain to London University, and Er. Harold Winstone, the English liturgist.
The 40th International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne is the second to be held in Australia. The first was in Sydney in 1928.