WHILE they prepared for the home stretch of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), some organizers also began to ask: how will the Cebuanos remember this event?
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said several plans for the output of the congress are being initially discussed, like a proposal to build a center for the poor and homeless.
The archbishop, in a press conference yesterday, said the details of the plan have yet to be threshed out and presented to a committee.
A few hours later, Palma also said he was optimistic the procession last night from the Capitol to Plaza Independencia will be remembered as “one of the best highlights” of the IEC in Cebu.
He said the delegates were impressed by the multitudes who attended the mass in front of the Capitol and the solemn procession that followed, when participants filled both sides of Osmeña Blvd.
Traffic near the Capitol built up yesterday afternoon once major roads were closed for the mass and procession.
During the mass, authorities estimated the participants to have reached 32,000.
It took less than three hours for the crowd to build up and reach an estimated 300,000 during the procession. Police later revised their estimate to 1.5 million, said Chief Insp. Ryan Devaras, chief of the Mobile Patrol Group.
Mass participants were told to continue to take part in the Holy Eucharist.
They can draw inspiration from the many people, particularly bishops and other clergy, who continue to practice the Holy Eucharist despite threats to their lives, said Dublin, Ireland Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
Martin served as president of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland four years ago.
He cited the life of the late Vietnamese Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan and Polish Bishop Casimir Maydanski, who continued to observe the Holy Eucharist despite terrible ordeals.
Maydanski was a Polish deacon who was one of many priests arrested by the Nazis during World War II. He was incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp. After the war ended, Maydanski eventually became a priest.
Thuan, who is being considered for sainthood following his death in 2002, suffered detention for 13 years in Vietnam.
Martin said that both men, who were his superiors, told him it was Holy Eucharist that allowed them to continue living during their years of imprisonment.
“I speak about these two men, not only because they are great men, but to remember how the Holy Eucharist became central in their lives. They ardently longed for the Eucharist even though it was not possible for them to celebrate. The Eucharist brought them hope and encouragement whenever they could celebrate, even if it was only in the darkness of the night,” Martin said.
Martin lamented that for some Catholic majorities, the celebration of the Eucharist is slowly becoming taken for granted.
“I hope that this International Eucharistic Congress will offer all of us an opportunity to renew our hunger and thirst for the Eucharist,” he added.
After the mass, Papal Legate and Yangon, Myanmar Archbishop Charles Maung Cardinal Bo led a procession of the Holy Eucharist from the Capitol to Plaza Independencia.
Accompanying Bo were Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and Archbishop Piero Marini, head of the Pontifical Commission on the International Eucharistic Congresses.
Chief Insp. David Señor, community relations chief of the Cebu City Police Office, said not all participants of last night’s procession walked the whole stretch.
Some local Catholics packed the sidewalks, standing while waiting for the float that carried the Eucharist to pass by.
Lodgers in buildings near the corners of Colon St. and Osmeña Blvd. sat on the hanging steel stairs that were supposed to serve as emergency fire exits, if only to get a glimpse of the candlelit procession.
On the skywalk between Abellana National School and Cebu Normal University, a group of civilians argued with police officers because they wanted to stand on the skywalk and take a picture of the procession underneath.
“Unsaon nako pag-uli sa amo, dili ko kaadto’g South Bus (Terminal) kay di mi paagion ninyo, sabta sad ‘tawn mi uy (How can I go home if I can’t go the other side, where the bus terminal is? Please understand our situation, too),” said one of the men.
The secured parade route, which was supposed to be only for delegates and other authorized people, was also nearly invaded by local participants who wanted to get closer to the Eucharist’s float.
“But all of these minor incidents, our operatives managed them well, so there was no major untoward incident recorded so far,” Señor said.
The local police estimated the crowd by assuming there would be at least four people for every square meter of space.
On the road
For traffic managers, the day began much earlier.
Starting at 1 a.m. yesterday, portions of Osmeña Blvd. (from the Capitol to the corner of J. Avila St.) and Escario St. (from the corner of Don Gil Garcia to the corner of Juana Osmeña Ext.) were closed to vehicles, while organizers prepared for the mass.
At 2 p.m., two hours before the mass was scheduled to start, Osmeña Blvd. from J. Avila to Fuente Osmeña was also closed to vehicles. At 5 p.m., all of Osmeña Blvd., from the Capitol all the way to Plaza Independencia, was closed to vehicles.
Heavy but moving traffic filled V. Rama Ave, B. Rodriquez St., N. Bacalso Ave., Juana Osmeña St., Gen. Maxilom Ave., M.J Cuenco Ave. and T. Padilla during the procession that began after the mass.
“Overall, it was manageable,” said Atty. Rafael Christopher Yap, acting department head of the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO).
The procession lasted for nearly three hours.
Upon arriving at Plaza Independencia, Cardinal Bo then presided over the solemn benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Around 8:30 last night, the CCTO reopened the all affected roads, and people—whether IEC delegates or not—began to make their way home.