İzmir: a “eucharistic” year
In the last meeting of the Episcopal Conference, the bishops of Turkey have proposed to make a programme in preparation for the next International Eucharistic Congress, which is going to take place in Budapest, Hungary, in 2020.
Together with the priests, religious men and women, and consecrated persons we welcomed this initiative as an occasion of grace for the city of İzmir. For this reason, we decided to devote the current year 2018 to the Eucharist, through the moments of prayer and reflection.
Focusing on the Eucharist means returning to the source of our faith, to the rediscovery of our baptism and to a renewed encounter with the Lord Jesus. As Pope Francis said at the closing ceremonies of the last International Eucharistic Congress hosted by the Philippines: "... the risen Jesus is always alive and present in his Church, above all in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood. 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 Church of İzmir received the gift of faith by the Apostle John; he was the one who introduced us to the mystery of the Eucharist. Rediscover the central importance of the Eucharistic sacrament means to return to the school of Apostle John in order to learn from him again to be beloved disciples. This is what Saint John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia /The Church draws her life from the Eucharist/, speaking of the Eucharistic adoration: "It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25), and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. (...) How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support" (EE 25).
The sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us to another important aspect of faith: one does not believe alone. Faith is not a private affair. Faith has an ecclesial dimension. The Eucharist makes us one with the Body of Christ, and this generates communion with others: "partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit". This is what the Church prays for and believes in the Eucharistic Prayer II.
"The Eucharist makes the Church, and the Church makes the Eucharist," in the felicitous expression of Cardinal Henri de Lubac.
St John Paul wrote: "The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. (...) The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by Him she is fed and by Him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a 'mystery of light'. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: 'their eyes were opened and they recognized him' (Lk 24:31)".
Dear friends, how much riches are hidden in the Eucharist! Let's ask the Lord to help us this year to experience it. I address the invitation to each one of you to rediscover for you the central importance of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass on Sundays and in the other forms of eucharistic worship, that is available for the faithful through the tradition of the Church.
As diocesan community, we will come together twice a month: for the Eucharistic day in the Saint Polycarp Church on the first Thursday of each month and for the monthly adoration in one of our parishes of the diocese in turn.
The Eucharistic day in the Saint Polycarp Church will be structured as personal and silent prayer with 1-hour shifts from 9:30 and 17:30. As an aid to prayer, a booklet with prayers of the Eucharistic tradition and spiritual mediations will be prepared. I urge the faithful, who have time and opportunity, to come and spend an hour in the company of Jesus Christ. This way the Saint Polycarp Church will become the spiritual lung of our diocese once a month.
As regardsthe monthly adoration in one of our parishes I hope many people will come together to pray and contemplate the mystery of the Eucharist. All of us need to rediscover the roots of faith, as with knowing comes caring.
The first date of the Eucharistic day in the Saint Polycarp Church is going to be 1 March, while the monthly adoration in one of our parishes will have the following schedule:
19 April Cathedral
17 May Holy Rosary
21 June Buca
20 September Karşıyaka
25 October Göztepe
29 November St. Mary's church
20 December Bayraklı
I am holding the communities of Konya and Antalya in my prayers. They are not able to participate because of the distance, but I am sure that they will also find the time for adoration and catechesis which will join them in the pastoral initiatives of the diocese.
Dear friends, may the fire of the Eucharist illuminate the not always easy path of each of us and of our Church.
I assure you of my prayers and I give my fatherly blessing to you and your family.
Metropolitan Archbishop of İzmir