41st International Eucharistic Congress begins

Pope John Paul II in 1997. The first Polish pope inspired young Catholics to be excited about their faith. (AP Photo)

August 1, 1976, was the first day of the weeklong 41st International Eucharistic Congress, which was held in Philadelphia until the 8th of that month.

The convention was an interfaith ecumenical gathering of church leaders and scholars that included lectures, workshops, exhibitions and Eucharistic liturgies. A procession was on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and ended with a benediction at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Events were also held at the Philadelphia Civic Center and the Spectrum. Notable individuals from all over the globe attended the Eucharistic Congress.

Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa appeared on the same stage on the sixth day to address the topic of women and the liturgy. St. John Paul II came to Philadelphia to attend the International Eucharistic Congress as the relatively anonymous Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.The Mass held at Municipal (J.F. Kennedy) Stadium was attended by U.S. president Gerald R. Ford.

One of the largest religious gatherings in U.S. history, the focus of the entire Catholic world was directed towards Philadelphia in August of 1976. Yet while the 41st International Eucharistic Congress was a great event in the spiritual and historical treasury of events for Philadelphia Catholics, its enduring legacy is indeed the theme of the week's celebration: *Jesus, the
Bread of Life*.

This Eucharistic Congress is one of only two such Congresses held, so far, in the United States.