The motto of the main Eucharistic celebration, led by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, was "Christ today and always, our hope, allelulia!"
Požega, (IKA) – In front of the ancient church of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of the Diocese of Požega, in the presence of young people who had arrived from different parts of the Diocese of Požega, students of the diocesan Catholic schools and other believers, the Third Eucharistic Congress on the occasion of the establishment of the Diocese of Požega and the ordination of its first bishop, Msgr. Antun Škvorčević, was ceremonially opened on September 23. The extensive program of the Eucharistic Congress was led by the Archbishop Emeritus of Cracow, Cardinal Stanislav Dziwisz, who had served for many years as the secretary to St. John Paul II, the founder of the Diocese of Požega. The Bishop of Požega spoke about the gratitude and joy generated by the announcement of the establishment of the diocese and the closeness that St. John Paul II showed to the Croatian nation. Then Bishop Škvorčević addressed the main celebrant: “We had already felt your closeness when you accompanied Pope John Paul II on his Apostolic Visits to Croatia, especially on his last one in 2003, when he crowned Our Lady of Voćin in Osijek. You always received us in Rome with a smile on your face, particularly on our first episcopal pilgrimage of thanksgiving in 1998. As the Archbishop of Cracow, in 2006, on the occasion of our episcopal pilgrimage along the paths of Pope John Paul II, you welcomed us at the Wawel Cathedral, accepted our invitation to visit Požega and gave us your chasuble. You testified to your particular closeness to us when in 2013 you gave us a relic of St. John Paul II, which is placed in our cathedral, and also his chalice. Welcome!” After greetings by the Bishop of Požega, the bells of all the churches in town rang and proclaimed the opening of the Third Eucharistic Congress. Then the people made a procession to the cathedral of St. Teresa of Avila, where Vespers were prayed by young people, led by Cardinal Dziwisz. Vespers of Thanksgiving were celebrated by the local bishop and twenty or so bishops from Croatia and other countries. The singing was animated by the cathedral’s mixed choir and youth choir, together with young people from all the deaneries of the Diocese of Požega and numerous other believers.
Then, in the overflowing St. Teresa of Avila Hall, students from the Catholic secondary school and other young people gave a performance entitled Twenty Years of Fruitful Harvest, in which they presented the twenty-year history of the Diocese of Požega. This was followed by a spiritual and musical program in the congress area in front of the cathedral, Open the Doors to Christ. At the incentive of Bishop Škvorčević and owing to the wholehearted efforts of the cathedral curate, Krunoslav Siroglavić, for the first time in the history of the diocese a diocesan youth choir performed. The joyful celebration ended with singing young people entering the cathedral for the nightly Eucharistic adoration, in which young people from all the deaneries of the Diocese of Požega and members of prayer groups participated.
At the beginning of the main Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, September 24, in the congress area in front of the cathedral, Bishop Škvorčević greeted those present and, among other things, pointed out that this celebration “in a way is a continuation of the Eucharistic Congress that was led 80 years ago in Požega by Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, thereby activating the Eucharistic spirituality incorporated in our young local Church. Thank you, Blessed Alojzije!” The congress participants received a message from Pope Francis via the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, which was read by the secretary of the nunciature, Msgr. Janusz Blachowiak.
At the beginning of the homily, Cardinal Dziwisz thanked the faithful for their warm memories of St. John Paul II. “Croatia was always deeply present in the heart of John Paul II, especially during the difficult period of the 1990s, when it fought for its rightful place in the family of sovereign states. I am convinced that today St. John Paul II is looking down from above at our Eucharistic celebration in Požega, rejoicing and wholeheartedly blessing us,” said Cardinal Dziwisz.
Commenting on the Gospel reading, the cardinal emphasized that it calls our minds and hearts “to reach out to the the source of our faith, to see the Eucharist as Jesus Christ’s gift to the Church—the community of His disciples, to which we have the privilege of belonging. Jesus Christ wanted to satisfy man’s greatest hunger. He wanted to satisfy our hunger for God, our hunger for life, which no one and nothing can destroy. He became our Living Bread, lest we stop on the path of our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God.” For us, brought up in the faith of the Church that has lived the Eucharist for two thousand years, it is easier to accept Jesus’ words and the gift that these words proclaim. We know that on the eve of the Passion, at the Last Supper, in the presence of all the disciples, Christ established the previously announced Eucharist, said Cardinal Dziwisz, and noted how the founder of the Diocese of Požega, St. John Paul II, was a man of the Eucharist. He spent long hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament during his priestly life. He also did so when Poland and other European countries, including Croatia, were struggling against the false and ungodly communist ideology that promised people heaven on earth, and left material and spiritual ruination, said Cardinal Dziwisz. He added that there is no doubt “that the Holy Father made a great contribution so that our countries would once again have their freedom and sovereignty, although he did not have an army. His weapon was the Word of the Truth about God and man created in the image and likeness of God, who is called to life by God, through love.” The cardinal urged the faithful to study the enormous wealth of the teachings of the Holy Father contained in thousands of catecheses, sermons and speeches, as well as in many exhortations and apostolic letters. He particularly pointed out the last one, the fourteenth encyclical of his pontificate, which he devoted to the Eucharist. “We can consider this encyclical as a type of testament, which the Pope left before he departed for eternity,” said the cardinal.
At the end of the homily, he called for prayer “that peace would reign in our troubled world, especially in the Near East and in the brotherly Ukraine. Today, to You, Jesus Christ, we all open the doors of our hearts, as we were asked to do by St. John Paul II, and with faith repeat the motto of the Eucharist Congress: Christ today and always, our hope, alleluia!”
The offertory gifts were brought to the altar by representatives of the ten deaneries of the Diocese of Požega. Furthermore, offertory money was collected in all the parishes of the dioceses for the building of a house for a single mother with three children. Following the prayer after communion, the celebrant of the Mass exposed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, which was venerated by the faithful. The entire celebration was enhanced by a choir consisting of over five hundred singers from the parish choirs of the Diocese of Požega, together with the oratorio choir of the Church of St. Mark in Zagreb, Cantores Sancti Marci.
The Eucharistic celebration was preceded by a pilgrims’ program in front of an image of Our Lady of Voćin.