Vatican City (AsiaNews) In the solemn mass in St Peter Basilica announcing the start of the Year of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II said that the Eucharist is light "for the heart of man oppressed by sin, disoriented and tired", the light for a world that is "in a difficult search for a seemingly distant peace in a new millennium distressed and humiliated by violence, terrorism and war". For the Pope, the "light" of the Eucharist is also a mystery as a way to relate to the problems of our times.
The solemn rite took place in Rome as the International Eucharistic Congress was coming to a close in Guadalajara. Through a live TV feed both events were linked. Unlike other times, the Pope could not be in the Mexican city in person but at least he was able to speak to the congress participants.
"The TV linkage between St Peter Basilica, the heart of Christendom, and Guadalajara, seat of the Congress," the Pope said in Spanish, "is a bridge between continents and makes our prayer meeting an ideal Statio orbis bringing together believers from around the world. Jesus Himself is the point of encounter, truly present in the most Holy Eucharist through the mystery of his death and resurrection, the point where heaven and earth and peoples and cultures meet. Christ is "our peace, the One who made the two into one people".
For the Pope, who seemed to be in relatively good health, the central theme of the Congress 'The Eucharist as light and life of the new millennium urges us to think of the Eucharistic mystery not only in and of itself but also in relation to the problems of our times.
Mystery of light! The human heart, oppressed by sin, often disoriented, tired and burdened by all sorts of suffering, needs light. The world, too, needs light in its difficult search for a seemingly distant peace at the beginning of a new millennium distressed and humiliated by violence, terrorism and war.
The Eucharist is light! In the Word of God constantly proclaimed, bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. It is He, the resurrected Lord, who opens minds and hearts. When the bread is broken, He lets Himself be recognised as did the two disciples in Emmaus. It is in this convivial gesture that we relive the sacrifice on the Cross, experience God's infinite love and are called upon to spread the light of Christ among the men and women of our times".
"Life's mystery! What aspiration can be greater in life? And yet, menacing shadows are gathering over this universal human yearning: the shadow of a culture that denies respect to life in all its stages; the shadow of indifference that condemns countless people to a life of hunger and underdevelopment; the shadow of science whose research is too often at the service of the selfish mighty".
The Eucharist means brotherhood. For the Pope, that compels us to feel "the needs of our brothers. We cannot lock our heart away and hide from their calls for help. And yet we cannot forget that Man does not live of bread alone for we also need the bread that comes from the heavens. Jesus is that bread. Feeding from Him means accepting God's life and opening ourselves to love and sharing."
"I especially wanted this year to be dedicated to the Eucharist for this mystery truly nourishes the Church every day, especially on Sundays, the day when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
"In this Year of the Eucharist, the Christian community is urged to be more aware and conscious of this observance through a more fervent and lasting adoration and a greater commitment to brotherhood and service to the humble.
The Eucharist is the source and epiphany of the communion. It is the principle and goal of mission. Following in Mary's footsteps "Eucharistic woman, may the Christian community experience this mystery! Thanks to the "Bread of eternal live", may Christians become light and life, source of evangelisation and solidarity!"
For the opening of the Year of the Eucharist, the Pope recited a prayer that he wrote himself:
""Mane nobiscum, Domine!" he said. "Like the two disciples in the Gospels, we implore You, Lord Jesus, stay with us! You, divine traveller who know the roads and our hearts, do not leave us in the shadows of the evening."
"Help us in our weariness, forgive us our sins and lead us onto the path of righteousness. Bless the children, the youth, the elder, the families, especially the sick. Bless the priests and those who are consecrated. Bless all of humanity."
"In the Eucharist, You have become the "medicine of immortality": give us a taste for the full life, the one that leads us to walk on this earth as confident and joyful pilgrims with the eye always on the prize of endless life."
"Stay with us, oh Lord! Stay with us! Amen."