Pope’s envoy at IEC wants ‘World War 3’ vs poverty

Paterno Esmaquel II
Pope’s envoy at IEC wants ‘World War 3’ vs poverty
Myanmar's Cardinal Bo hits ‘the cruelty of dogs getting fed with sumptuous, organic food, while poor children scamper for crumbs from the table’

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Coming from a poor country like the Philippines, a representative of Pope Francis called for a “Third World War” against poverty as he opened a global Catholic congress in Cebu City.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar, also slammed death penalty and abortion – hallmarks of the “culture of death” – at the opening Mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in the Philippines.

The IEC is a week-long event where the biggest names in the Catholic Church discuss the Eucharist or the Mass, as well as its impact on society. (READ: IEC 2016: Terrorism, climate change seen on agenda)

In his homily on Sunday, January 24, Bo said: “The Eucharist calls for a Third World War – a Third World War against poverty; a Third World War against the cruelty of dogs getting fed with sumptuous, organic food, while poor children scamper for crumbs from the table; a Third World War against a world that produces more weapons while more than half a million do not get enough food every day.” 

“’Till that happens,” he added, “the Eucharist will remain a revolutionary flag hoisted every day on millions of altars, crying for justice, like the prophets of old: ‘The real fasting I need is breaking the chains of injustice.’”

Bo, 67, is the first cardinal from Myanmar – a country which, in his words, has “faced war and conflict for the last 60 years.” 

Pope Francis made him a cardinal in February 2015. Months later, Francis appointed him as his representative or papal legate to the IEC, which the Philippines is hosting for the first time since 1937. (READ: First IEC in PH: Cardinal Vidal’s First Communion, too)

Eucharist and the poor

Before the Mass, Filipino Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, communications head for the IEC, described Bo as “an Asian cardinal who will be one with us,” and “a cardinal who is in touch with the masses.”

Bo’s homily on Sunday proved Vergara right.

In his 25-minute sermon, Bo indeed spoke for the poor when he said that “the Eucharist and the poor are inseparable.”

The cardinal then quoted one of the early Church Fathers, John Chrysostom: “Do you wish to honor the Body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. He who said, ‘This is my body,’ is the same who said, ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food.’”

“The Eucharist calls us to justice,” he said.

At the same time, Bo rejected the “culture of death” that also affects the most vulnerable.

“Adoring Jesus in the Eucharist is also accepting our fellow men and women as created in the image of God,” he said.

The cardinal from Myanmar continued: “In a world that kills children in the womb, in a world that spends more on arms than on food, in a world that continues to have millions of poor, the Eucharist is a major challenge to the whole of humanity. Can we feel the presence of God in our brothers and sisters?” – Rappler.com

Follow Rappler’s special coverage of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress.

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.