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IEC2012: Dublin’s Churches unite for Congress
If you thought that the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland, this June was just for Catholics, you would be wrong. “There is a genuine sense of excitement and expectation right across the Christian traditions in Ireland”, says Rev. Michael Jackson, the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin. Listen:
It may be the 50th global gathering of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist, but from the outset the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, decided this Congress should also become an opportunity to further the ecumenical journey in Ireland, which for historical reasons has often been an uphill climb. On the opening day of the Congress, Monday June 11th, pilgrims will explore the theme, Communion in One Baptism with key-note addresses from Br. Alois Löser (Prior of the Taizé Community, France), Dr Maria Voce (President of Focolare) and Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev (Metropolitan Archbishop of Volokolamsk -Russian Orthodox).
Archbishop Jackson has been invited to preside at the main liturgy of the first day, a special Ecumenical Liturgy. “The whole world knows of the current economic and social difficulties that we have in Ireland”, he notes. “This I think is a tremendous invitation to all of us who carry the Cross of Christ to make a contribution together to try to formulate and shape a fresh direction for our society”.
Eucharist and ecumenism
Speaking to Emer McCarthy, Archbishop Jackson confesses he is particularly excited to be part of the IEC2012 experience. “I think one of the things that comes across is that communion as understood more widely is at the very heart of this Congress. So Baptism as something which is recognised, respected and practised across the traditions in a very specific way is a wonderful way into the exploration of communion as shared life”
This, he says, will hopefully bring a greater understanding between Ireland’s Christian traditions: “I think two things in particular will probably happen: there is an element of what I call internal instruction which is actually facilitating people who are faithful in the Catholic tradition to see communion as something beyond Eucharist, something within it and something beyond it, and to enable the rest of us to see it in the same light”.
The leader of the capital’s Anglican Church adds “Its important for us all to see beyond what to many people is an ecumenical logjam which is the fact that we do not together celebrate and share the Eucharist. I think what the Eucharistic Congress is encouraging us to do its to take the fullness of the Eucharist in the tradition of each of us, and actually to take that sense of belonging to Christ and share in that spirit more widely”.
Witnessing to Christ together in a secular world
In recent years in Ireland, as elsewhere in western society, Christian witness has increasingly been marginalised to the private sphere. For Archbishop Jackson, Congress presents a unique opportunity for people of faith to come together and witness to their beliefs in prayer and in public: “I think this very public and this very worldwide expression of our desire to be a fresh and new community together through the Eucharist and through Baptism is very important”.
This communion of witness, he says, is just one of the examples of practical expressions of ecumenism. “Many people are saddened and frustrated at the fact that it is not possible to officially share the Eucharist together. I can understand that pain… but I think that we need to work with a mixture of holy patience and holy impatience, and if this is the situation where institutionally the Churches are then we need to dig deeper and look for ways in which we can express that communion. There is of course a communion of the sacraments. But there is also a communion of charity, a communion of belonging to one another, there is a communion of faith and a communion of action”.
“What I would love to see coming out of the Congress is that those who are leaders – and leaders aren’t always the people at the top – but those who are leaders in their own community might have opportunity to work through what communion in fact means on the ground. There is tremendous potential for the future in all of this”.
He concludes: “I regularly say a divided Christian witness convinces nobody. It doesn’t convince anyone in the Churches and it certainly doesn’t convince those who look quizzically at the Churches. We need to build in simplicity. Our smaller scale in Ireland means that we need to know one another.”