At the conclusion of the 50th Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, Pope Benedict urged ongoing liturgical renewal – as outlined by the Second Vatican Council – amid current misunderstandings and abuses.
“At our distance today from the Council Fathers' expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities,” he said in a video message to over 75,000 pilgrims in Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium on June 17.
“Not infrequently,” he added, “the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and 'active participation' has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal.”
Although the liturgy should be “celebrated with great joy and simplicity,” it should also be conducted “as worthily and reverently as possible,” he said.
In his eight and a half minute address, the Pope explained to that the Council Fathers had wanted to renew the external forms of the Mass so as to “make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery,” and therefore “lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist.”
Croke Park is the home of Ireland’s traditional Gaelic sports, and is also the largest stadium in the country. Gathered within it were the tens of thousands of pilgrims who had come from worldwide to pray and learn more about the Eucharist during the week-long event June 10-17.
The main celebrant at the concluding Mass was the Papal Legate to the Congress, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet. Also present were the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, and its Prime Minister, Enda Kenny.
“Ireland has been shaped by the Mass at the deepest level for centuries,” said the Pope, “and by its power and grace generations of monks, martyrs and missionaries have heroically lived the faith at home and spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness well beyond your shores.”
The Pope told the Irish people that they are “the heirs to a Church that has been a mighty force for good in the world” and which has “given a profound and enduring love of Christ and his blessed Mother to many, many others.” This legacy was “surely perfected and nourished” by the Mass he suggested.
Touching upon the troubled recent history of the Church in Ireland, the Pope said the “mystery” as to why some clerics would abuse those in their care can perhaps be explained by the fact that “their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit.”
This was precisely the attitude, he said, that the Council had wanted to overcome so as to “rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict concluded by announcing that the city of Cebu in the Philippines will host the next International Eucharistic Congress in 2016 before imparting his apostolic blessing and commending the Irish people to “ to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of God, and to Saint Patrick, the great patron of Ireland.”