Marguerite Barankitse and Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi.
The link between eucharistic witness and human rights was prominent at the final session of the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) June 21 in Quebec City.
The faith of Canada’s Native peoples and the people of Africa was celebrated at the day’s Mass and in the catechetical session attended by thousands of congress pilgrims.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and a native Nigerian, was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass.
The main talks of the day were delivered by Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi of Douala, Cameroon, and Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi. The founder of Shalom House, since 1994 her organization has helped more than 50,000 children and adult victims of the intertribal violence in her country.
Cardinal Tumi noted that this year is the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. Catholic belief and practice, he said, has a strong social dimension that is grounded in Christ’s charitable gift of the Eucharist. He said as Catholics are transformed by the Eucharist, they must transform the world. “You cannot keep Christ for yourself,” he said, quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis.
While Catholics must take an active role in advocating against injustice, Cardinal Tumi said the Church must not play a role in politics. “The political realm is not ours,” he said. “But the Church may not let loose from the struggle for justice in the world.” He said Catholics must “awaken the spiritual forces” that can transform society.
Cardinal Francis Arinze
“I am calling you to be true builders of peace and justice,” Cardinal Tumi said. “The one who takes part in the Eucharist must commit himself to building a world of peace.” He said the laity has a special role as eucharistic witnesses. “Your life has to be a symbol of Christ’s life in the world.”
Above all, Cardinal Tumi said, Catholics must transform society by imitating Christ’s love for mankind. “What is lacking in the world is love. If love becomes the soul of humanity, there would no terrorism, and no wars in Afghanistan or Iraq or Africa.”
Marguerite Barankitse spoke firsthand of the violence in Burundi, Africa. She witnessed the execution of several dozen people during civil war in the mid 1990s and has had her life threatened by gunmen for her work with the war’s victims, especially orphans. Her defiance of power has earned her the name the “Crazy Lady of Burundi,” a title she cherishes, she said. Barankitse has been considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She urged IEC participants to be “crazy about the Eucharist.” She said the mystery of the Eucharist cannot be captured in pastoral letters or official Church documents. “We are the Eucharist,” she said. “It can make us be audacious with our gifts.”