Filipinos energizing faith, says US Catholic bishop
CEBU CITY—Church leaders attending the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) here have asserted the importance of the Holy Mass while admitting that a big percentage of Catholics don’t attend Sunday services and young people find it boring.
“That 70 percent of Catholics stay away from the Eucharist is a spiritual disaster,” said Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, who Tuesday gave the “catechesis,” or Catholic instruction, a key feature of the IEC.
Barron, founder of the Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, was apparently referring to statistics showing that only 31.4 percent of American Catholics attend Sunday Mass, although a 2013 Social Weather Stations survey also showed that the number of Filipino Catholics regularly attending Sunday Mass had gone down to 37 percent from more than 60 percent in the 1990s.
Still, Barron—a well-known American broadcast and social media personality, inspirational speaker and author—indicated that Western Catholics could learn from Filipino Catholics, “whose faith, energy is exciting.”
In a press conference, he praised Filipinos for “playing a big role” in his own Archdiocese of Los Angeles and “vividly” living their faith.
Of Barron’s 720,000 followers on Facebook, 250,000 live in the Philippines.
“It’s a testament to the surprisingly overwhelmingly vibrant quality of Catholic life in this great country,” Barron said.
Manila-based Belgian Marianne Servais agreed.
In her “testimony,” another feature of the IEC, Servais said she was born a Protestant but converted to Catholicism in the Philippines because she found Filipino Catholics happy and forthright in expressing their faith.
“Not a day passes that I am not thankful that God drew me to the Catholic Church and the Eucharist,” she said.
Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, retired archbishop of Manila, urged the 14,000 delegates from at least 71 countries to renew their devotion to the Mass.
“Let the Eucharist bring Jesus back in our midst,” he said during the High Mass on the second day of the congress proper at IEC Pavilion at Pope John XXIII Seminary here.
Held every four years, the IEC, which was started at the turn of the 20th century, discusses ways Catholics could renew their commitment to the Holy Eucharist, referring both to the ritual that Catholics must observe every Sunday that memorializes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and to the Host, the wafer that symbolizes his body and blood that Catholics consume for spiritual nourishment.
Barron did not give the reasons Catholics were staying away from the Mass, but indicated that they may not fully understand its meaning and significance.
A theological scholar who obtained his doctorate from the Institut Catholique de Paris and taught at the Angelicum in Rome, Barron said the Eucharist was a memorial to Christ’s sacrifice which in itself updated Old Testament sacrifice.
“In a world gone wrong there is no communion without sacrifice,” he said.
He said the restlessness of the youth reflected St. Augustine’s restlessness for God and was a mirror of secular society’s overall alienation as shown by drug abuse, family breakups and social breakdown.
He said the Church played a “profound role” in uniting families and society by reminding them of God.
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