80,000 expected to attend Mass closing 50th Eucharistic Congress
MORE than 80,000 people are expected to fill Croke Park this afternoon for the final Mass to mark the end of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.
The RTE televised event will bring to a close the week-long programme of activities which saw tens of thousands of Irish and international pilgrims visiting the Eucharistic Village created in the RDS.
Expected attendance figures for today's ceremony are in sharp contrast to those of 1932, which is the last time the Congress was hosted in Ireland. The open-air Mass in the Phoenix Park attracted close to one million people.
The closing event begins at 1pm and will be hosted by Liveline's Joe Duffy and newscaster Eileen Dunne. It will feature a range of artists including international stars The Priests, Fuaimlaoi, award-winning soprano Celine Byrne and world-renowned composer Fr Liam Lawton as well as the RTE concert orchestra.
Father Eugene O'Hagan of The Priests said: "Singing at the closing Mass will be a thrilling but daunting experience. The IEC comes at a critical time in people's lives in Ireland. . . We will be with so many pilgrims and it will be a unique experience for us and we'll be that little bit more nervous and anxious to give of our very best."
Celine Byrne said she was honoured to be performing: "My faith means a lot to me and to be invited to participate in the International Eucharistic Congress is both an honour and a blessing for which I am grateful."
The final Mass will be celebrated by the Papal Legate, His Eminence Marc, Cardinal Ouellet. It has been described as a time of pause or "statio" and an opportunity for people to come to terms with what it means to celebrate, receive and live the Eucharist which has been the theme of the 2012 Congress. The Mass will begin at 3pm and will be translated in both French and Spanish.
Delegates attending the closing ceremony have been advised to travel to Croke Park by public transport due to limited parking facilities. Road closures will be in operation and there will be restricted access in and around the stadium for residents and pass-holders only.
In all, 160 workshops took place last week, including talks, addresses, group reflections, meetings, concerts and plays. There were 223 Irish and international keynote speakers and 144 presenters.