Philippines, ‘a blessed nation’

BRING the Church back to the youth. Speak to your families with mercy, not judgment. Have more children. And bring the message of God’s “tenderness, forgiveness and mercy” to a world that badly needs it.

Those were the challenges from Pope Francis and Charles Maung Cardinal Bo, who represented the pontiff in the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) that ended last night with fireworks illuminating a crowd of around one million people.

IEC Statio Orbis fireworks

Delegates and the public who attended the IEC Statio Orbis at SRP were treated to a fireworks display this evening. Here's a video capturing that moment. Watch this.For more IEC-related stories, visit You may also watch the replay of the Statio Orbis at

Posted by Sun.Star -- Philippine news on Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pope Francis recorded his message in the Vatican two days before the IEC ended. When his message began to air on large screens in front of the San Pedro Calungsod templete, the crowd applauded.

There were many points in the mass that they applauded, such as when Charles Maung Cardinal Bo, the papal legate to the IEC, began his homily by saying he no longer wanted to leave Cebu.

‘7 intense days’

“What a great host you are. What a great experience,” Cardinal Bo said. “For the last seven days, you made us all proud to be Catholics. You broke the bread of hospitality, warmth and your smiles. You are apostles of smiling. How can we forget the warmth, the smiles, the dancing, the piety, and the fellowship?”

“As we go, our hearts with to stay with you,” the cardinal said. “You have made us realize the intense fellowship that comes through the Eucharist. You are a nation of hope. Your date with destiny has arrived. Your sons and daughters will be blessed a hundred-fold and you will be called a blessed nation.”

He urged participants to speak with mercy to their families and to bring the Church back to the youth.

“Many of us come from countries where Christianity is a big challenge. Churches are empty, vocations dying out. They say Christianity is in the twilight zone. Take heart, my brothers and sisters...Filipinos, multiply your missionaries, multiply your children! Go and populate those countries where Christians are becoming minorities, those countries where there are more pets, more cats and dogs than there are children!”

As the Pope’s representative, the archbishop from Yangon, Myanmar was a highly visible presence in the 51st IEC. He presided over the opening mass last January 24 that filled Plaza Independencia and its surrounding streets, visited a Bosconian center in Barangay Pasil, witnessed a performance of the dancing inmates of Cebu Province, and addressed delegates in the newly built IEC Pavilion.

In a 12-minute video message shown after the Statio Orbis, Pope Francis said the theme of the 51st IEC, “Christ In You, Our Hope of Glory” was a timely reminder for the faithful.


“Christ’s presence among us is not only a consolation, but also a promise and a summons. It is a promise that everlasting joy and peace will one day be ours in the fullness of His Kingdom. But it is also a summons to go forth, as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father’s tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child,” the Pope said.

He mentioned the various conflicts and humanitarian crises that plague parts of the globe, and said the challenge for Christians was that of “bringing the goodness of Christ’s redemptive love to a world in such need of reconciliation, justice and peace.”

“We are called to bring the balm of God’s merciful love to the whole human family, binding up wounds, bringing hope, where despair so often seems to have the upper hand,” he said.

After hearing the Pope’s message, Alicia Barrameda, 40, said she became emotional. For the former overseas worker, the Pope’s message was very clear.

“Bisag asa ta maabot sa kalibotan, gitawag ta nga mosangyaw sa maayong balita sa atong Ginoo. Mao na ang gustong ipaabot ni Pope, nga dili ra ta kutob sa istorya lang kung Katoliko ta, apil sad sa buhat (Wherever we may go in the world, we are called upon to spread the Good News. That is what the Pope wants, that we aren’t merely Christians in word, but also in deeds),” Barrameda said.

Before he ended his message, Pope Francis also announced that in 2020, Budapest in Hungary will host the 52nd IEC.


In his acceptance speech, Peter Cardinal Erdo, archbishop of Ezstergom-Budapest, thanked the Pope for choosing his country.

“In the name of the Hungarian delegation, we thank you for organizing this beautiful event. It has strengthened our faith, it has strengthened our fraternal communion in solidarity,” Erdo also told the crowd.

Aside from the 12,000 delegates who attended the 51st IEC, also present were 300 cardinals and bishops and more than 1,000 priests from 71 countries.

In his speech after the mass, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma praised all of those involved in making the 51st IEC successful.

He singled out the delegation from Taiwan, who numbered 600 and included their vice president in Sunday's mass.

In a separate interview, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo, secretary general of the 51st IEC, said the organizers have been receiving good reviews from the delegates.

“The feedback from everybody has been overwhelming and deeply touching,” Villarojo said, “and it’s because of the great faith of the Cebuanos.”

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