09/12/2005, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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The Eucharist at the centre of life and faith in Pakistan

by Qaiser Felix
Hundreds of thousands of faithful celebrate Mary, "Lady of the Eucharist", during Mariamabad's National Eucharistic Congress.

Mariamabad (AsiaNews) – The National Eucharistic Congress held in the village of Mariamabad (Mary's city), 80 km from Punjab's provincial capital of Lahore, came to a close yesterday. It had started on September 9 with the 56th Marian pilgrimage whose theme this year was "Mary and Eucharist". Hundreds of thousands of men and women of all ages came on pilgrimage reaching Mariamabad early morning on Friday.

Led by Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, Archbishop of Lahore, the official procession began at 5 pm. Pilgrims left the shrine, walked along the streets of the village, saying the rosary and chanting religious songs, and then made their back to the shire where they were blessed by the prelate.

Afterwards, a girl from a Catholic Girls school officially crowned the statue of Our Lady and, with some of her companions, sang a hymn to the Virgin, only to be followed by pilgrims who brought traditional presents to offer to the Virgin Mary such as crowns, flower garlands, necklaces and dupatas (head scarves).

During the celebration, Fr Younan Shahzad (who teaches at Karachi's Christ the King Seminary) spoke about the Congress's main theme: "Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are re-telling the message of the Lord's death, that he has died for you. Do this until he comes again" (1 Cor, 26:11).

"The Eucharist is the centre of our Catholic life and faith," said Fr Younas Shahzad, and "in it, we are united with Jesus. At the same time, it is a symbol of the faithful's unity as they ear from the same bread and drink from the same cup."

"This is the highest form of prayer and a resource for meeting Christ," he added. "The Eucharist shows God's endless love and celebrates goodness as the only path to reach God and faith."

"Mary is a historical reality which gives a material shape to Jesus. She prepared the path to salvation for us. That is why Mary and Eucharist are always one. Our Lady is a 'Lady of the Eucharist'," Father Shahzad explained.

"She led a complete Eucharistic life," he insisted, "because Her whole life was a great example of sacrifice."

"We have to break our bread and share it with others," he said. "It is what the Eucharist demands, and it is a solution to the world's poverty, hunger and the many evils of our society."

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