Year of the Eucharist a Time of Encounter, Says Pope

Tells of Event’s Focus on Christ

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2004 ( John Paul II hopes that the Year of the Eucharist will be a time of encounter with Christ for believers and nonbelievers alike.

The Pope expressed this today when praying the midday Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Many were on hand to congratulate him on the 26th anniversary of his pontificate, which he marked a day earlier.

Greeting the crowds with a clear voice, the Pope reminded them that today marked the closing of the International Eucharistic Congress held in Mexico, as well as the solemn opening of the Year of the Eucharist.

Hours later the Holy Father would be linked by television from St. Peter’s Basilica to the congress in Guadalajara, after presiding over a solemn Mass to open the Eucharistic Year and to adore the Blessed Sacrament with pilgrims in Rome.

John Paul II explained that for eight days in Guadalajara «the Eucharist was celebrated and adored as ‘light and life of the new millennium.’ Light, because in the Eucharistic mystery shines the presence of Christ, Light of the world; life, because in the Eucharist Jesus has given us himself, Bread of life.»

«In the wake of the Second Vatican Council and of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Year of the Eucharist is meant to be a time of intense encounter with Christ, present in the sacrament of his Body and Blood,» the Pope said.

The Holy Father clarified that in this mystery, Christ «sacramentally prolongs his paschal sacrifice, which has redeemed humanity from the slavery of sin and established the divine Kingdom of love, justice and peace.»

«From Christ’s Pasch the Church is born, which for this reason ‘lives from the Eucharist,'» the Pope added, recalling the opening words of his 2003 encyclical, «Ecclesia de Eucharistia.»

At the end of his address, the Pope expressed the hope that the Year of the Eucharist, which will end with a synod of the world’s bishops in October 2005, will be «a time of profound conversion to Christ and of intense commitment to spreading his message of salvation.»

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