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Cebu gears up for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress

It’s bigger than the APEC meetings and the biggest Catholic event on the island since Pope John Paul II’s visit

The Queen City of the South is rolling out its red carpet for the more than 15,000 local and international delegates to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), which will run from Jan. 24 to 31.

It will be the second time that the Philippines will hold the IEC, an international gathering aimed at promoting an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church. In 1952, Manila hosted the event.

Cebu’s hosting of the 51st IEC is both timely and historic, considering that January is also the month when the city celebrates the feast of the miraculous Holy Child, Sto. Niño, and Cebu has long been considered as Asia’s “Cradle of Christianity.”

HOLY PREP From top: The blessing of the Monstrance at the Archdiocesan Solemn Opening of the Holy Door at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral last Dec. 13, 2015; There will be a presentation of the Sinulog during the IEC proper (Image by Juan Carlo de Vega); The Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses in Cebu to oversee preparations

HOLY PREP From top: The blessing of the Monstrance at the Archdiocesan Solemn Opening of the Holy Door at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral last Dec. 13, 2015; There will be a presentation of the Sinulog during the IEC proper (Image by Juan Carlo de Vega); The Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses in Cebu to oversee preparations

The Archdiocese of Cebu, which plays host to the gathering, considers the IEC as an ecclesial event of the Church focused on stimulating the faith of the Catholics in the “real presence” of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and on promoting an increased zeal for and devotion to the Eucharist outside of Mass.

Cebu has long prepared for the 51st IEC congress, with organizers mapping out security, crowd control, traffic, and other details as early as 2014. Msgr. Dennis Villarojo, secretary general of the IEC 2016 local committee, said early preparations mean no important details will be missed to ensure a successful and orderly congress.

When Cebu was chosen to host the international gathering, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma wondered where the event will be hosted, considering the enormous crowd that is expected to come to Cebu and join the congress.

One Cebuano, however, approached Palma and said he would build a new pavilion that could be used for the 51st IEC Congress, for free. The total cost of the pavilion, which is now ready to host the gathering, is more than R550 million.

Rafaelito Barino, president of Dulos Land Properties Inc, said he decided to construct the building for free following a meeting with Palma. “If not for Duros, we would not be able to cope with the entire Eucharistic Congress,” Archbishop Palma said.

For his part, Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said he believes that the IEC Pavillion, which can accommodate about 15,000 people, is a “miracle from God.”

“I could hardly believe that this would happen, that we have a pavilion as huge as this, as beautiful as this. God has given this and made this a reality. Lord, thank you for giving us this building,” Cardinal Vidal said. “I hope that it will remain forever.”

Organizers also lauded the participation of the public and private sector in the preparations. The Cebu City Traffic Office (CCTO) has already launched traffic dry-runs to ensure that traffic situation during the event will be seamless and manageable. The event organizers, including church officials and city government, are concerned about the traffic problem foreseen at the IEC venues.

“CCTO is now prepared but we are still refining the traffic plan. We are coordinating our plans with IEC (organizers). We still have to hold a series of meetings with representatives of church officials for IEC,” said CCTO operations head Jonathan Tumulak. Several roads will be totally closed while others will be opened only for public vehicles.

Catholic schools and selected public schools in Cebu have also declared suspension of classes during the IEC week. These include the University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of San Carlos, St. Theresa’s College, Colegio de la Immaculada Concepción, and the Don Bosco Technology Center. Palma was thankful that some schools have voluntarily suspended classes and asked the public for understanding and patience during the IEC.

For its part, the Police Regional Office 7 is also finalizing its security preparations for the gathering as police officials admitted that securing the IEC Congress is even more challenging that securing the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings because of the number of delegates and the different venues involved.

Senior Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 directorial staff chief, said the ad hoc task group on IEC and Sinulog had requested Camp Crame for additional support from special units, including the military’s Explosives Ordnance Division (EOD) and bomb-sniffing dogs’ squad.

The 51st IEC Congress will culminate with a Holy Mass at the South Road Properties with an expected crowd of about a million. The said Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo from the Archdiocese of Yangon, Myanmar. Cardinal Bo has been appointed by Pope Francis the Papal Legate to the 51st IEC.

  • Sr.Athens

    Our prayers for this great event. The article is well-written: well-deserving of all the preparations done for this gathering such as the theme song “Hope of Glory” is superb.