International Eucharistic Congress opens in Cebu City

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The opening mass at the historical Plaza Independencia was one of the biggest outdoor gatherings in the IEC.

Cebu (CNN Philippines) — Having a devotion and being devotee to the Nazareno or the Santo Niño would not be enough practice in celebrating the Eucharist, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said on Sunday (January 24) at the opening mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu City.

Cardinal Bo of Myanmar, was tasked as the papal legate or the representative of Pope Francis who would not be able to join the activities of the IEC.

A 20-minute fireworks display that literally lit up Cebu's skies capped off the activity with cheers from the crowd and a loud chanting of "Pope Francis, We Love You" as many people remained hoping for a miracle that the pontiff would still make it to the country. 

The opening mass at the historical Plaza Independencia was one of the biggest outdoor gatherings in the IEC. Traditionally this activity is led by the current pope as in previous congresses.

Coming from a third world country like the Philippines, Bo said the celebration of the IEC should trigger a "Third World War" — the war to end poverty.

Trying to speak Tagalog and Cebuano during his homily, the cardinal also prayed for world peace especially in war-torn countries like Myanmar, among others.

He also called on the delegates that while they celebrate the Eucharist, it would be best to practice the teachings of Christ, and the love for the poor — which he said no other religion in the world had given much significance to.

Bo said in the Eucharist, the streets served as the altar and that it was in the streets that the faithful would be able to practice the teachings. It was in the streets that Christ suffered and died, he added.

"The Eucharist and the poor are inseparable," he said.

The two-hour long Holy Mass was preceded by a Sinulog presentation, as well as a short play reenacting the history of Cebu and the Santo Niño relic and its importance as the cradle of Asia's Christianization after the arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

Joining Cardinal Bo in the event were Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Manila Archbishop Luis Cardinal Tagle.