Pope blesses and rings a small brass bell that has been on tour across Ireland for nearly a year

Pope Benedict XVI blessed and rang the official International Eucharistic Congress bell, which has been on tour across Ireland for nearly a year, in preparation for the world meeting in June.

An Irish delegation, led by the 2012 congress president Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, presented the Pope with the small brass bell before the start of his weekly general audience on March 14. Before the Pope was driven into St Peter’s Square, he met the delegation and rang the bell.

Congress organisers said a quarter of a million Irish pilgrims have rung the bell since the start of its pilgrimage March 17, 2011.

The bell has been brought to parishes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals throughout Ireland to raise awareness about the Eucharistic congress and to call people to attend the event.

According to tradition, St Patrick left a bell in every church he consecrated as a way to call people to the Eucharist, congress organisers.

The delegation also presented the Pope with a medal commemorating the congress, and a bowl of Irish shamrock to mark the March 17 feast of St Patrick.

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress is in Dublin from June 10 to June 17 and has the theme: “The Eucharist: Communion With Christ and With One Another.” Pope Benedict will not be attending the congress.

During his general audience with about 10,000 pilgrims from all over the world, the Pope continued his cycle of talks on prayer and started a new chapter looking at prayer depicted in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St Paul.

He spoke about Mary and her “privileged place in the Church, of which she is the ‘exemplar and outstanding model in faith and charity’.”

He said people can learn how to pray from Mary: listening patiently and humbly, and freely and fully accepting God’s will.

Often people turn to prayer when facing great difficulty, anxiety or fear, he said, because by turning to the Lord, people can find “light, comfort and help.”

Mary also invites people to experience another dimension of prayer and “to turn to God not just when in need and not only for oneself,” but to pray together as a Christian community, united in faith “with one heart and one soul,” he said.

“Mary teaches us the necessity of prayer and shows us how, only with a constant and intimate bond of love with her son, can we leave ‘our home’ and step outside of ourselves with courage, in order to reach the ends of the earth and everywhere proclaim Lord Jesus, saviour of the world.”

At the end of his talk, the Pope met Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly, Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, and Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, who presented the Pope with a wrapped gift.

The Pope also met Chaldean Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo, head of the Catholic Diocese of St Peter the Apostle, of San Diego. The Iraqi-born bishop has under his care Chaldean Catholics in the western United States, and he was leading a pilgrimage of about 90 Chaldean Catholics to Rome.