Bell calls pilgrims to 'spiritual Olympics'

Father Michael Cooke and Tommy Burns with the bell Father Michael Cooke and Tommy Burns with the bell

Lancashire churches have been playing host to bell which is the Roman Catholic Church's version of the Olympic Torch.

The bell is rung to call pilgrims to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Dublin in the summer.

The Eucharistic Congress has been likened to a spiritual Olympics.

On the journey it calls upon the Church's athletes - or pilgrims - to respond to its call.

During a visit to the Roman Catholic Salford Diocese, the bell has been the focal point of services at St Alban's in Blackburn and St Mary's in Burnley.

Bonding affect

Father Michael Cooke from the diocese said: "The bell is visiting each of the eight deaneries in the Salford Diocese as a preparation for the congress and has focused us on the four aspects of the Eucharist.

"That's the gathering together, the listening to God's word, the celebration of the Eucharist itself and then being sent out on God's mission."

Tommy Burns is the bell coordinator for the pilgrimage, which is taking him to parishes throughout England and Ireland.

He said: "We are on a 500-day pilgrimage which is really an invitation for people to gather together in prayer.

"We hope people will come to each of the services in their local churches, but ideally they will also come to the main congress being held in Dublin in June.

Like the Olympic Games, the Eucharist Congress is only held once every four years.

Mr Burns said: "Last time it was in Quebec, this time it is in Dublin and is a meeting of Catholics from all over the world who want to delve deeper into the mysteries of our faith.

"There are about 250 workshops and seminars organised for the week and we would expect around 25,000 people each day to visit the congress."

Father Cooke said the bell's visit to different areas of the diocese, which covers a third of Lancashire, also has a bonding affect on the parishes.

"Bishop Terence Brain, the Bishop of Salford, has always begun his pastoral letters as referring to the 'family of God in the Salford Diocese'," he said.

"All the initiatives we have are attempts to create that sense of family.

"That way people as far away as South Manchester and Colne all feel part of that same family."

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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