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To our venerable brothers
Cardinal Joachim Meisner
Archbishop of Cologne
and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch
President of the German Bishops’ Conference
With the motto “To whom shall we go, Lord?” (John 6:68) Catholics from Germany and nearby countries are gathering together now for the National Eucharistic Congress in Cologne. This event situates itself in this city’s long tradition of veneration of the Eucharist. Cologne was one of the first to celebrate the Feast of “Corpus Domini,” from its inception in the 13th century, with processions of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and was the site of the World Eucharistic Congress in 1909. So, I gladly send from Rome Cardinal Josef Cordes as my special envoy to show my deep spiritual communion with German Catholics, and to express the universal communion of the Church. May the heavenly Father grant to all the participants abundant fruits of grace from the veneration of Christ in the Eucharist.
“Lord, to whom shall we go?” With this question, in the face of many who misunderstood Jesus, who wanted selfishly to profit from him, St. Peter is the spokesman of his faithful followers. The disciples do not seek the worldly payoff of those who were satiated (cf. John 6:26) and who, nevertheless, worked for bread that does not last (cf. John 6:27). Of course, Peter too knows hunger; for a long time he was unable to find the bread that filled him. Then he met the man from Nazareth. He followed him. Now he knows his Master not only from hearsay. Being with him every day Peter has developed a trust without reservations. This is faith in Jesus; it is not without reason that Peter expects the longed for “life in abundance” from the Lord (cf. John 10:10).
“Lord, to whom shall we go?” We too, who belong to the Church today, pose this question. Even if it is more hesitant on our lips than on Peter’s, our answer, like that of the Apostle, can only be the person of Jesus. Yes, he lived 2000 years ago. But we can encounter him in our own time when we listen to his Word and are near to him in a special way in the Eucharist. Vatican Council II calls it the “sacred action par excellence,” adding that “no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” 7). May the Holy Mass never become a superficial routine for us! May we draw more and more from its profundity! It is precisely the Mass that inserts us in Christ’s immense work of salvation, to sharpen our spiritual vision by his love: by his “prophecy in act” with which, at the Last Supper, he initiated the gift of self on the cross; by his irrevocable victory over sin and death, which we boldly and festively proclaim. “We need to learn how to live the Holy Mass,” Bl. John Paul II said once to young mean at a Roman seminary who had asked him about the deep concentration with which he celebrated the sacred liturgy (Visit to the Pontificio Collegio Germano Ungarico, Oct. 18, 1981). “Learn to live the Holy Mass”! We are helped to do this by pausing in adoration before the eucharistic Lord in the tabernacle and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“Lord, to whom shall we go?” Lastly, this question is posed by certain of our contemporaries, who – with lucidity or obscure presentiment – are in search of the Father of Jesus Christ. The Redeemer wants to meet them through us, who, thanks to our Baptism, have become his brothers and sisters, and who, in the Eucharist, have received the power to participate with him in his mission of salvation. With our life and our words we must proclaim to them that which we have seen together with Peter and the Apostles: “Lord you have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Our testimony will enflame them as we have been enflamed by Christ, All of us, bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity have the task of bringing God to the world and the world to God.
Encountering Christ, giving ourselves to Christ, proclaiming Christ – these are the pillars of our faith, which are concentrated in the focal point of the Eucharist. The celebration of the Eucharistic Congress during the “Year of Faith” proclaims with renewed joy and certainty: the Church’s Lord lives in her. With my cordial greeting I bestow from my heart to all of you the Apostolic Benediction.
From the Vatican, May 30, 2013, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Francis[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]