By Jesús Colina
ROME, JULY 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Who says you have to visit the old churches of Europe to witness a Eucharistic miracle?
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the director of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network, said he witnessed various miracles in Canada at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, held June 15-22 in Quebec.
Salt and Light Television broadcast the congress for the Canadian audience as well as for EWTN and several other television networks throughout the world, and will rebroadcast the footage this month.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Rosica talks about his experience at the congress.
Q: Father Rosica, you have just returned from 10 days at the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec. What are your first impressions of this event?
Father Rosica: At many moments of crisis and turbulence in Christian history, the Lord confirmed his real presence in the Blessed Sacrament in some rather miraculous ways. In Quebec I rediscovered extraordinary Eucharistic miracle stories, but this time it wasn’t in churches of old Europe. I saw the Eucharist come alive in a very powerful way in a hockey arena in Quebec’s Pepsi Coliseum for one full week.
Q: Are there any initial statistics from the International Eucharistic Congress?
Father Rosica: Nearly 16,000 people registered for some part of the congress in Quebec, and 12,000 of those registered for the full program at the Expo Cité fairgrounds.
Two-thirds of the full-week participants (7,869) were Canadian. Residents of Quebec were the most numerous at 4,898 registrants. The largest Canadian delegation (2,449) was from the host diocese, followed by Montreal (789) and Toronto (538). The largest international delegation was from the United States (704).
The final statistics put the number of young people registered for the weeklong Quebec event at 1,500. Another 1,500 signed up only for the weekend activities, which included the Saturday evening vigil and the closing mass.
The presence of the “Service Jeunesse,” comprised of young people from across Canada who worked on the event for months, was very significant.
As well, the joyful presence of new communities and movements and many other groups added a unique and dynamic dimension to Quebec’s congress.
The weekend family program, held off-site of Quebec’s Expo Cité, drew another 1,000 people. In addition, 1,000 participated in the weekend program for adolescents.
About 2,000 clerics were among the registrants, including 42 cardinals, 285 bishops, 1,500 priests and close to 200 deacons. They were joined at the congress by 1,800 religious. It was a powerful experience of the universal Church.
Q: We have heard about the very large procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Quebec? Why was this event so significant for the congress?
Father Rosica: On Thursday evening participants joined in a three-mile procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Quebec, starting at Pepsi Coliseum and ending at the Agora in Quebec’s Old Port. Over 25,000 people took part in the great procession, something people in Quebec have not seen for over 50 years.
Q: Cardinal Marc Ouellet arranged for a priestly ordination ceremony during the congress on Friday evening. How was this event received by the Church in Canada?
Father Rosica: The intrinsic relationship between Eucharist and priesthood was highlighted in this massive ordination ceremony. In a part of Canada and North America that has had few priestly vocations over the past decades, the ordination of 12 young men — eight of whom were from the new community “Famille Marie Jeunesse” — before a crowd of nearly 12,000 people elicited extraordinary emotion, joy, eruptions of applause, gratitude and abundant tears from those in attendance.
Q: Benedict XVI addressed a special pre-recorded message to the youth prayer vigil on Saturday evening. How was his message received by the large audience?
Father Rosica: Benedict XVI’s message affirmed that in the Eucharist young people discover that they are loved. He said: “By opening your very being and your whole life under the gaze of Christ, you will not be crushed — quite the contrary: You will discover that you are infinitely loved […] You will receive the power that you need in order to build your lives and to make the choices that present themselves to you every day.”
Q: Did the torrential rainstorm on Sunday morning dampen the spirits of those who attended closing mass of the congress?
Father Rosica: Before a crowd of over 50,000 people on Quebec’s historic Plains of Abraham, Benedict XVI delivered his homily live via satellite from the Vatican. He took up several of the great themes of his pontificate in the homily addressed to a huge crowd huddled under umbrellas and plastic raincoats. At the end of the homily, the Holy Father announced that the next International Eucharistic Congress would take place in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012.
Q: Can you offer any conclusions to the great event in Quebec, and share any hopes for the future of the Church in Canada?
Father Rosica: The real problem in Quebec has been the spiritual void created by a religious and cultural rupture, a significant loss of memory, bringing in its wake a family crisis and an educational crisis, leaving citizens disoriented, unmotivated and destabilized.
No one has tackled this indifference over the past few years more courageously, eloquently and publicly than Cardinal Marc Ouellet. If the Eucharist is gift of God for the life of the world, then Cardinal Marc Ouellet has truly been a gift of God for the life of the Church in Canada, and especially in Quebec.
Several times during the magnificent week of the International Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Ouellet stated emphatically that the congress marked a “turning point.” At the lively Saturday evening prayer vigil with his devoted young people, the cardinal said the he felt as if he had been “raised from the dead.”
One day during the congress in Quebec, the daily rainfall compelled me take a taxi to the Pepsi Coliseum. The young driver, an Algerian Muslim man, asked me where I came from, and then spoke to me about the congress, having encountered so many of the delegates on the streets of Quebec.
“What are they giving your people to eat these days?” he asked me. I looked puzzled and asked him to explain.
He said: “I have never seen so many happy people in Quebec since I emigrated here 10 years ago. There has to be something in the food and drink. It must be awesome!”
I told him that it was certainly awesome!
The congress has been a privileged opportunity for Canada to re-actualize the historic and cultural patrimony of holiness and social engagement of the Church, which draws its roots from the Eucharistic mystery.
In his 2003 encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” Pope John Paul II wrote: “The Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.” The International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec did just that.