Eucharistic Congress in Cebu to highlight vibrant Asian Church

An unforgettable experience awaits pilgrims, writes Bishop Kevin Doran

Bishop Kevin Doran

Every nation has its own unique characteristics. In recent years, with the influx of guest workers from all over the world, we in Ireland have come to experience this cultural diversity at first hand. I have always thought of Filipino people as good humoured, colourful, religious and hard working.

More recently, on a visit to Cebu, I found that they also love taking photos and that there is almost no limit to their hospitality. The Island of Cebu is in the Visayas region, at the heart of the archipelago that forms the Philippines. The people of Cebu are preparing to host the next International Eucharistic Congress, in January 2016. I was struck by the fact that the ordinary woman and man in the street already knows a lot about it. There is a great sense of anticipation. 

The theme of the Congress is “Christ in You our Hope of Glory”. It is taken from the letter of St Paul to the Colossians. It is intended to remind us that as Christians we are called to be bearers of hope for others. Only 3% of Asians are Catholic, but they still make up 10% of Catholics world-wide.

The focus

Philippines has the highest percentage of Catholics in Asia.If IEC2012 (Dublin) was about “communion with Christ and with one another”, IEC2016 reminds us that the focus of our communion must be missionary. The presence of Christ in us is not meant to be a secret; it is for sharing with those who have not met Him and, indeed, with those who may have lost sight of him.

There is an essential connection between the Eucharist and the Cross, through which Jesus Christ particularly identifies with suffering humanity. For the Church in the Philippines, it is very important that the fruits of the congress would touch the lives of those who have been worst affected by natural disasters and by economic imbalance, both global and local.

This need is already being addressed in some of the preparatory programmes taking place in the Philippines at present. Pilgrims from Europe should also expect to be challenged in some way by the obvious gap between rich and poor.

Christianity in the Philippines came with the Spanish almost 400 years ago. One of the treasures of Cebu is the statue of the Santo Nino (the Holy Child), which was brought there from the Spanish Netherlands. It is the focus of great devotion and has its own festival each January. Close by is the Cross of Magellan, which is the symbol of IEC2016, like our Congress Bell.

A miniature replica has been “doing the rounds” of all the dioceses in the Philippines in recent months.

It is a long way to the Philippines, but hundreds of pilgrims travelled longer distances from poorer countries in Asia and elsewhere to participate in IEC2012. I think, if we were to have a good representation from Ireland in Cebu, it would be an appropriate way for us to give thanks for the blessings of our own International Congress. It would also be an expression of solidarity with the large Filipino community which has made such an important contribution to Irish society in recent years. For Irish pilgrims it would be an opportunity to experience the freshness and vibrancy of the Church in Asia. Cebu, of course, would also be a great stopping off point on an extended visit to Asia or Australia.


The weather in Cebu in January should be like a good Irish summer, with temperatures in the mid-twenties. What’s not to like about that when it’s mid-winter in Ireland? Hotels and shopping malls will be air-conditioned, but you will want your factor 25 and your sun hat for the great out-doors. Public transport is in the form of the “jeepney”, an open Hiace van or similar, packed to the gills. Irish pilgrims will be spared that experience because coach transport will be provided. There will also be special congress shuttle buses between the hotels and the main venues.

The venues for IEC2016 are quite interesting. The Eucharistic Procession will begin on the steps of the State Capitol and end in the sports stadium at one of the city’s Catholic colleges. The youth vigil will take place in Plaza del’Independencia with the backdrop of Fort San Pedro. The closing Mass will be celebrated at East Road Properties, a large area of reclaimed land on the sea shore. Perhaps one of the most amazing achievements of the past few years has been the partnership between the diocese and a development company owned by a Chinese-Catholic family.

This has led to the building of a pavilion for the daily gatherings, on a piece of land adjacent to the seminary. In years to come, this pavilion will serve the diocese as a conference centre, as well as replacing the existing junior seminary.

One distinctive feature of the Cebu congress will be the opportunity to spend an evening sharing faith with and enjoying the hospitality of a parish community somewhere in the city.

Details of the programme of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, from January 24-31, including guest speakers and other events, can easily be had on and the “Real Presence” app, which can be downloaded from the App Store, as well as the Facebook page of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress

Travel and registration for Irish pilgrims is best made directly with Joe Walsh Tours on 01 241 0800 or

Bishop Kevin Doran is National Delegate for Ireland for IEC2016.