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OAKLAND, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The bishop of the Oakland diocese is dismayed at the results of a poll finding almost 70% of Catholics are ignorant of Church teaching on the Holy Eucharist — and is fighting back.
"As bishop of the diocese of Oakland, I find this shocking," Bp. Michael Barber, S.J., wrote in a letter to the faithful.
As part of the bishop's response to the findings, he has called for a diocesan-wide Eucharistic Congress on June 19–20 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California.
The theme of the congress is "Stay with us, Lord," from Luke 24:29: "But they constrained Him, saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent. And He went in with them."
Bishop Barber explains that the theme calls the faithful "to reflect upon the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives, and to reaffirm our call to be a people nourished, fed and molded by the Eucharist itself — just as the disciples were on the road to Emmaus."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is unambiguous on the Real Presence and quotes the 16th century Council of Trent: "In the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist 'the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained'" (paragraph 1374).
The Council of Trent issued this pronouncement as well: "If anyone denies" this teaching and holds that Christ "is in it as by a sign or figure ... let him be anathema."
The June 19 portion of the conference is designed for priests of the diocese. According to the Eucharistic Congress website, clerics "will gather to hear a spiritual talk, hear from the bishop and ... pray with young people of the diocese, who will lead eucharistic adoration until 11 p.m."
This will give "a chance for the priests to pray with the young people of our diocese, and a chance for the young to experience the faith of our priests," said the Very Rev. Brandon Macadaeg, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
The June 20 portion is designed to be a day of prayer, including Masses, in both English and Spanish, with a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the streets bordering the cathedral.
The bishop promises that the congress will not be his only response to "the decline of belief in this central mystery of the Faith." He says he is charging "Pastors, religious education directors, catechists and youth leaders to respond with classes and spiritual activities to reinforce the Church's teaching of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist."
In addition, he has designated that the Real Presence will be the theme of the diocese's annual Catechetical Convention in August 2020.
Lastly, the bishop asks that the faithful be assured of his prayers and thanks "for whatever assistance you are able to provide in helping the Congress participants grow in their love for Christ Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar."
Bishop Barber's efforts in Oakland to overcome ignorance and unbelief of the Holy Eucharist will be followed by the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary in September. The weeklong venue will feature luminaries from around the world, including Polish Abp. Stanisław Gądecki, Hungarian Cdl. Péter Erdő, and Syrian Greek Catholic Patriarch Youssef Absi.