The 49th International Eucharistic Congress got under way Sunday afternoon with an impressive theatrical opening ceremony.
The customary welcoming speeches kicked off the event. Attendees heard from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, from the mayor of Quebec City, a representative of the provincial government of Quebec, the Vatican's Canadian ambassador Archbishop Luigi Ventura, and the minister of multi-culturalism, representing the Canadian government, Jason Kenny.
Kenny delivered a memorable comment, when he noted that the "single most multi-cultural institution in Canada is the Catholic Church." It's a powerful, and accurate statement. Scanning the faces of the thousands of pilgrims who had registered, there were people of African heritage, of Spanish, of Philippino, Asian, European -- here was the universal Church represented in Canadians!
After the speeches the ceremony turned into an theatrical performance. Giant 'marionettes,' some 30 or 40 feet tall paraded into the Pepsi Coliseum. They were dressed as the great Saints and Blessed of our Canadian Church. Blessed Francois de Laval was one holy man singled out in particular -- he was the first bishop of Quebec when the diocese was established in the 1600s. Three of the 'puppets' were then lifted high to the rafters of the Coliseum, enforcing the idea of these great figures of the Church who came before us, are now in heaven interceding for us and our land!
The opening ceremony offered the important reminder of the rich, Catholic heritage that is here in Quebec. Established as the first diocese north of Mexico, one may even consider Quebec the cradle of Catholicism in North America. Today marked the beginning of a beautiful opportunity for the 12,000 participants of the IEC to rediscover the wonderful history of faith in this land, and to be reminded of the gift that it is not just for each of us personally, but for our country.