VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2005 ( Benedict XVI's first apostolic trip will be to Bari for the 24th Italian National Eucharistic Congress where he will highlight that the Church cannot exist without the Blessed Sacrament.

The Pope plans to visit the southern town on Sunday and to celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. in the esplanade of Marisabella to close the congress.

In a letter to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his special envoy to the congress, the Holy Father said that "in the bread and wine, changed in the holy Mass into the body and blood of the Lord, the Christian people find the nourishment and support to undertake the path to holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized." The letter was published May 16.

The Eucharistic congress, which has gathered representatives of all the ecclesial entities of Italy, opened last Saturday with the theme "We Cannot Live Without Sunday."

The theme is taken from the words expressed by the 49 martyrs of Abitene, a city of the Roman province of Proconsular Africa, today's Tunis, in the year 303, during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian.

The Pope will go to Bari by helicopter, leaving the Vatican's heliport at 7:45 a.m. Sunday. He will land at Bari's Sports Union Center.

Benedict XVI will go to Marisabella in the popemobile. Mass will then be celebrated, after which the Pontiff will greet representatives of the congress's organizing committee, before going by car to Victoria Stadium around 12:30 p.m. where he will bid Bari farewell. He will return by helicopter to the Vatican around 2:30 p.m.

In the first message of his pontificate, read in the Sistine Chapel on April 20, Benedict XVI stressed the importance of the congress, held in the year Pope John Paul II dedicated to the Eucharist. The special year ends this October.

"In this year, therefore, the solemnity of Corpus Domini must be celebrated with particular prominence," proposed John Paul II. The Church celebrates that feast Sunday.