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Philippines hosts 51st Eucharistic Congress but not Pope Francis

January 24, 2016 - PHILIPPINES

The recent news from the Vatican that Pope Francis won't be attending the 51st International Eucharistic Congress on the island province of Cebu might be welcome for Manila.

Papal visits create monumental security worries, and the venerable quadrennial devotional gathering of Catholic clergy and laity arrives on the tail of a massive cultural and religious festival on Cebu.

The Sinulog, from 11-20 Jan, draws some 2.5 million people and is likely to spill over into the Congress, swelling attendance.

A papal visit would have brought millions more people to Cebu. The Pontiff's final-day during his Jan 2015 visit to the Philippines drew a record six million Catholics to Manila. The Vatican explained the proximity of the last visit for his decision not to come to Cebu for the Congress.

Cebu is the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines, which the Pew Research Organization lists as home to Asia's largest Catholic population. The Philippines' Catholic majority has its origins in the islands' long period as a Spanish colony.

The Sinulog celebrates the acceptance of Catholicism by locals, according to the organizers, as well as the triumph of Christianity over secular religions. It is believed that the transformation to Christianity happened in the early 16th century.

The theme of the 51st Congress is "Christ in You: Our Hope of Glory." Congresses feature large open-air Masses and many devotional ceremonies. The most recent International Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. The first was held in France on Jun 21, 1881.

5 facts about Catholicism in the Philippines (Pew Research Center 9 Jan 2015)

Cebu church leaders confirm Pope Francis to skip IEC in 2016 (CNN 15 Jul 2015)

International Eucharistic Festival web

Sinulog Festival (Philippines Hub)

Date written/update: 2015-09-02