Church hopes Pope can attend Cebu event

Hopes are high for a possible visit by Pope Francis in 2016 to attend the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City after the Archdiocese of Cebu received a request from the Vatican to move the event to an earlier date.

According to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Cebu Archbishop and CBCP president Jose Palma received a message from Msgr. Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee on the International Eucharistic Congress last Thursday, requesting to move the event set on May 23 to 29, 2016 to January because the schedule is close to the World Youth Day 2016, which the Pontiff traditionally attends.

Palma said that since the original schedule was January, the Eucharistic Congress, which is expected to draw thousands of Church leaders, pilgrims, and lay people from differen countries, will most likely be held around January 25.

Palma relayed the formal invitation for Pope Francis to attend the congress during a recent meeting with the Eucharistic Congress Committee in Rome, Italy. If the Papal visit pushes through, the Pontiff will be the third pope to visit the country after Pope Paul VI in 1970 and Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced that the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016 will be held in Cebu City in his final message broadcasted in June last year in Dublin, Ireland.

With the theme ''Christ in You: Our Hope of Glory,'' the International Eucharistic Congress is held every four years, with the last one held in Dublin, Ireland in 2012. It aims to promote awareness of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church, to improve understanding and celebration of the liturgy, and to draw to the social dimension of the Eucharist. The Philippines hosted the IEC in 1937 in Manila during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI. Church officials are still looking for a big venue to accommodate the delegates to the international event.

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