For an entire century, the International Eucharistic Congresses were celebrated as the great visible demonstration of the faith of the universal Church
Vittore Boccardi is a priest and journalist belonging to the Italian Province of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (Blessed Sacrament Fathers). Ordained a priest in 1979, after studies at the Augustinianum in Rome he worked for twenty-five years as a journalist, directing the “Riviste sacramentini” (Blessed Sacrament periodicals) and the publishing house Centro Eucaristico at Ponteranica (BG). From 2008 he has worked for the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses based in the Vatican.
The volume “Eucaristia, Chiesa e mondo. I Congressi eucaristici internazionali. Lineamenti di storia” (Eucharist, Church and world: The International Eucharistic Congresses, Outline of History) presents the overall panorama of the phenomenon of the International Eucharistic Congresses, a visible manifestation of that eucharistic movement which has taken place during the history of the Church from the end of the nineteenth century up to today, producing untold fruits of holiness and ecclesial growth.
Having begun a hundred and forty years ago, these Congresses are described here as a mirror of their time, reflecting the profound eucharistic piety of the Church, which, by means the Eucharist undertook to respond to the needs of the society of the time. For an entire century, before the “invention” of World Youth Days by the initiative of Saint John Paul II, the International Eucharistic Congresses were celebrated, thanks to sometimes incredible participation, as the great visible demonstration of the faith of the universal Church. Through a virtual path traversing all continents, a prophetic impetus flourished that would be fully recognized by the Second Vatican Council describing the Eucharist as “the source and summit of all Christian life” (LG 11).
The merits of these Congresses are many, starting with the initial synthesis on the development of the "eucharistic movement" between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Eucharistic Congresses are freed from the bubble of self-referentiality, in which they were often enclosed to be relocated in their time and space, thanks also to the systematic unfolding of recurrent sources that have up to now been scarcely employed and that are identified in bibliographical references.
For each Congress, starting from 1881, the historical context, the particular features, the development, and the topics dealt with are briefly presented, without omitting to indicate some significant curiosities. The physiognomy of the International Eucharistic Congresses thus appears to be continuously shaped by the progression of ecclesiological, biblical and liturgical reflection, by the enrichment of eucharistic theology, by a renewed attention to popular piety and the needs of the world. Today, with their more than a century-old history, the Eucharistic Congresses continue to traverse the world reminding us that the Eucharist is at the centre of ecclesial life. They celebrate it as an Easter mystery that can positively affect not only individual baptized persons’ lives, but also the earthly city in which Christians live and work. They provide structures and cues for the processes of historical renewal so that the social salvation resourced by the Eucharist becomes translated into a eucharistic culture, which can inspire all those who, by the grace of God, are called to live the Gospel in the field of charity, solidarity, peace, ecology, the family, the human community.
The impressive size of the volume (768 pages in four-color process, format 25 x 28 cm) should not be overwhelming: on being opened, it is able to enthral the reader by its flowing narrative style and by rare, if not unique, incredibly beautiful vintage photos, which the author found in the course of his persevering, and by no means simple, search for sources. In the text he manages to go beyond merely relate history: by narrating facts, which he presents following the chronological succession of congresses, he addresses broader issues, from social and human to thoroughly spiritual ones; moreover, by citing from time to time the interventions of the various Pontiffs linked to the Congresses, from Leo XIII to Francis, he composes a kind of eucharistic “enchiridion” of the last hundred and forty years.
Father Vittore Boccardi, sss
Eucaristia, Chiesa e mondo. I Congressi eucaristici internazionali. Lineamenti di storia
Preface by Mons. Piero Marini
LEV (Città del Vaticano) 2021, € 70,00