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Pope to American Catholics: The Eucharist Isn’t a Symbol, It’s the Real Presence of Christ Among Us

On Monday morning, June 19, Pope Francis received in audience the members of the Organizing Committee of the United States National Eucharistic Congress. The Congress will be held from July 17-21, 2024, in Indianapolis. Foreseen is the participation of some 80,000 American Catholics (visit the Website)

Here is the translation into English of the Pope’s address. 

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I’m pleased to give you all a warm welcome, members of the Organizing Committee of the next National Eucharistic Congress of the United States of America. I thank you for all that you do and I encourage you to continue your efforts to revive faith in and love for the Most Holy Eucharist, “source and summit of all Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11).

We know the story of the multiplication of loaves in John’s Gospel. The miracle’s witnesses returned to the Lord the next day, hoping to see Him work another sign. However, Christ wanted to transform their material hunger into another hunger, that of the Bread of eternal life (cf. John 6:26-27). Hence, Jesus spoke of Himself as the living bread come down from Heaven, true bread that gives life to the world (cf. John

When I was celebrating Mass this morning, I thought a lot about this, because It is what gives us life. In fact, the Eucharist is God’s answer to the most profound hunger of the human heart, the hunger of true life: in It Christ Himself is really in our midst to feed us, to console us and to sustain us on our journey. 

Unfortunately, today, sometimes among our faithful some believe that the Eucharist is more a symbol than the real and loving presence of the Lord. It’s more than a symbol, it’s the real and loving presence of the Lord. Hence, I hope that the Eucharistic Congress will inspire Catholics of the whole country to recover the sense of wonder and astonishment before this great gift that the Lord has given us, and to spend time with Him in the celebration of the Holy Mass , as well as in personal prayer and in Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. I think that in this modern time we have lost the sense of Adoration. We must recover the sense of silence, of Adoration. It’s a prayer we’ve lost, few people know what it is, and you, Bishops, must catechize the faithful about the prayer of Adoration; the Eucharist asks this of us. In this connection, I cannot fail to mention the necessity to promote vocations to the priesthood, because, as Saint John Paul II said: “Without the Priesthood there is no Eucharist” (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2004). Priests are needed to celebrate the Sacred Eucharist.

I trust that the Congress will be an occasion for the faithful to commit themselves with ever greater zeal to be missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus in the world. In the Eucharist we meet Him Who gave Himself wholly, Who sacrificed Himself to give us life, Who loved us to the extreme. We become credible witnesses of the joy and transforming beauty of the Gospel only by recognizing that the love celebrated in the Sacrament cannot be kept for ourselves, but calls to be  shared with all. Missionary work consists in this: you go, you celebrate Mass, you go to Communion, you adore . . . And then? Then you go out, you go out to evangelize, Jesus “makes” us so . . .

The Eucharist impels us to a love strongly committed to our neighbour, because we cannot understand and truly live its significance if we keep our heart closed to our brothers, especially to the poor, to the suffering, to the exhausted or lost in life. Two groups of people come to mind that we must always visit: the elderly, who are the wisdom of a people, and the sick, who are the figure of the suffering Jesus. 

Dear friends, the National Eucharistic Congress marks a significant moment in the life of the Church in the United States. May everything you do be an occasion of grace for each one of you, and bear fruit to accompany the men and women of your country to the Lord: He, with His presence among us, revives hope and renews life. 

I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States of America, and I assure you of my prayers for you, for your families, and for your local communities. I impart my Blessing to you all, and I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me. Thank you.

Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester