We open wide the gates of the churches

23 September 2019
Peter Erdo: "The Eucharistic Congress will provide an opportunity for dialogue next year."

One year from now, on 13 September 2020, the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress will begin in Budapest. The countdown began on Friday afternoon in a solemn fashion. Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest gave an exclusive interview to Magyar Hang on this occasion.

The Eucharistic Congress, one of the largest events of the Catholic Church begins exactly one year from now, promising to be not only a religious but also a cultural event. Who are you expecting and in what way the event might enrich the participants?

– The countdown that has just begun is a call both to the Hungarian and international public. Regardless of religion, conviction or nationality, we welcome everyone interested and open to dialogue in the spirit of ecumenism. The event offers a strengthening of the Roman Catholic faith in the Eucharist, the Holy Mass and the community. But there is another message: Hungary is on the border between East and West, thus the values of the Eastern Christianity can be shown in a way that was not possible at previous Eucharistic Congresses. The celebration of the Holy Mass in St. Stephen’s Basilica by Eastern Catholic bishops will be a beautiful event. The morning events, linked to registration, will follow a religious theme, but the afternoon and evening cultural events throughout the city will be open to everyone.

Budapest organized the Eucharistic Congress for the first time in 1938, just before World War II. Does the World Summit held then has a current message?

–Since then, the world has changed a lot. The current political situation in the world cannot be compared to those times, and our social issues are different, too. Yet there is a message that has stood the test of time. This is most expressed in the song written to be the anthem of the 1938 congress „East and West sing Victory”, especially the line „Unite all peoples and nations in peace.” The anthem has since become a public treasure of the Catholic Church, and it was touching to hear and sing it at the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Csíksomlyó. We decided that next year’s congress would also have the same anthem, in new arrangements.

Countdown not only means increasing anticipation but also the final speedup of preparation. How do the different communities prepare?

– The spiritual preparation and the organisation of the events are going full steam ahead. As far as the former is concerned, the Missionary Cross made by goldsmith Csaba Ozsvári containing the relics of Hungarian saints, is already touring the Carpathian Basin. It is also a symbol of the Eucharistic Congress. The cross is of great interest everywhere, common prayers bring the faithful closer to the messages of the Eucharistic Congress. The programmes are also being prepared. Holy Masses, religious gatherings, numerous concerts and cultural events will be offered for anyone interested. The smooth organisation of these events will require a great deal of help. We are preparing and training volunteers and reach out to Catholic educational institutions, which will also be of help.

– How is the Vatican represented?

– Needless to say, Pope Francis was invited. However the Holy Father usually sends an envoy to represent the Vatican. But it cannot be ruled out that he will make an exception this time, as not so long ago, on his return from an apostolic voyage, he said he wished to visit small countries. From this point of view, Hungary is ideal.

Gergely Gulyás Minister of Prime Minister’s Office gave a concise answer to the question regarding the support to the Congress at the latest government briefing saying that the state is providing support in every respect. What are the most important elements of support approved by the government?

– Support for the event is fixed by government resolution. The supported renovation and construction of the buildings hosting the events are under way. I would like to highlight the reconstruction of several churches in Budapest. Our goal is to open wide the gates of the churches from morning to evening, so that more and more people may come to pray or simply look around even if there is no Holy Mass going on. The state will also help organize events: venues will include Hungexpo, Kossuth Square, the László Papp Arena and the new Ferenc Puskás Stadium.

How much interest do you expect in Budapest?

– Previous experience has shown that the number of registered participants can be in the order of 10,000. However, most events will be accessible without registration. Registration has just started, but there has already been a lot of interest from the Far East, Korea and Taiwan. The faithful from the surrounding countries are also welcome.

Photo: Ambrus Marcsi

Bodacz Péter/Magyar Hang