Shrewsbury ... shall be a name 'as stirring to the heart as the glories we have lost'

Blessed John Henry Newman, 1852

Letters and Homilies

A pastoral letter on the National Eucharistic Congress to be read at all Masses on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, 13th May 2018


My dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday I write to you concerning a great and historic event to take place in Liverpool in September: a National Eucharistic Congress which will bring Catholics together from across England and Wales. This is an event of such significance that I hope many of us will be able to travel to Liverpool and everyone will be able to share in this moment of grace for our nation. The Eucharistic Congress invites us to enter into the prayer heard in the Gospel today which flowed from the Heart of Jesus on the very evening He gave us the Eucharist, that we may be one. Pope Francis explains: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, which brings us out of individualism to live together our journey in His footsteps, our faith in Him”. The Eucharistic Congress calls us together in the unity of faith and in a renewed recognition of the place of the Holy Eucharist at the heart of the whole life and mission of the Church. The Congress has already occasioned a special Eucharistic Year for us and these days in September will be a unique moment to renew our Eucharistic faith together.

In 1908, when the first National Eucharistic Congress was held in London, the Government invoked a new law to prevent the Blessed Sacrament being carried in procession. The Pope’s representative wrote a public letter to explain how that Congress was not a political demonstration; it was, he insisted, a Catholic people coming together “… to affirm with all simplicity their faith in the Eucharist, recalling the time when that faith was universal in England”. It is with this same purpose that we will gather in Liverpool with the same faith with which we “believe that the Saviour of the human race is with you in glory,” as we prayed at the beginning this Mass “may we experience, as he promised, until the end of the world, his abiding presence among us”.

This Sunday I want to suggest the different ways in which we can be part of this moment of grace, this special moment in our history. We can all accept the invitation to be part of Eucharistic Adoration both in our own parishes, especially on the Solemnity of Christ’s Most Holy Body and Blood, Sunday 3rd June, and on Sunday 25th June at 3pm at St Anthony’s, Wythenshawe, together with those preparing to attend the Congress. In Pope Francis’ words, this means accepting a challenge. The Holy Father writes:

Pastoral Letter, National Eucharistic Congress – 13th May 2018

“Let us ask ourselves, adoring Christ truly present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by Him? Do I let the Lord who gives Himself to me, guide me to come out  more and more from my little fence, to get out and be not afraid to give, to share, to love Him and others?”

On Saturday 8th September, we can take part in the great event itself in Liverpool’s Echo Arena. It will include one of the great, contemporary communicators of the faith, Bishop Robert Barron, who will speak on the Holy Eucharist; and this national gathering will end with Cardinal Vincent Nichols and all the Bishops of England and Wales leading an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. Attendance at this event requires a ticket which can now be obtained through your parish. On Sunday 9th September, ticket holders will be able to attend a celebration of Mass in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral at 9.30am or 11.30am. Others who wish to attend either of the Sunday Masses, can apply for tickets online in June. The outdoor Eucharistic Procession, which will be one kilometer in length, is open to everyone and will set out from the Catholic Cathedral at 1.00 pm. The whole Pilgrimage and Congress will end with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 2.45pm.

In preparation for the Congress there will be a series of workshops and presentations. In our own Shrewsbury Diocese we will welcome Father Oliver Treanor who taught for many years at the Pontifical University of Maynooth. Father Treanor will lead us in a special reflection on the Holy Eucharist as the centre of the Christian life; this will take place at St Ambrose College, Hale Barns, on Saturday 9th June and on Sunday 10th June at the Cathedral. On Friday 7th September there will be workshops in Liverpool of special interest to teachers, catechists and musicians. All the details can be found in the leaflet being distributed today or on our Diocesan website.

May we see the opportunity of these days of renewal in faith and love offered in the Eucharistic Year and the National Eucharistic Congress and Pilgrimage. Let us entrust this time of grace to Our Lady who prayed continuously with the disciples in the days before Pentecost. Through her intercession may the Holy Spirit kindle “within us  the  same ardour experienced by the disciples on the way to Emmaus and renew ‘Eucharistic wonder’” in all of our hearts.

United with you in this prayer,

+ Mark

Bishop of Shrewsbury