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Pope Benedict says the Eucharist is a treasure

Pope Benedict XVI, wearing a Saturno hat, waves as he arrives for his general audience, in St Peter's Square (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Benedict XVI highlighted the importance of the Eucharist as a “treasure whose value cannot be measured” at the first papal audience since the Holy Father went on holiday a month ago.

The Supreme Pontiff also encouraged altar servers to dedicate their lives to the service of the Lord, using the example of St Tarcisius, one of the patron saints of altar servers.

St Peter’s Square was packed, with Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, estimating that more than 80,000 people attended the audience, of whom 53,000 were there as part of a pilgrimage of European altar servers.

Speaking in German, out of consideration for the majority of the altar servers present, the Pope said that the Eucharist was “a precious good”, and “a treasure whose value cannot be measured, it is the Bread of life, it is Jesus who makes himself food, support and strength for our daily path and open road to eternal life; it is the greatest gift that Jesus left us.”

The Pope donned a white pilgrim’s handkerchief, remembering St Tarcisius in the catechesis, who was martyred in AD 257 while protecting the Eucharist. The Pope said that although “we do not have much information about him… it is said he was a young man who frequented the catacombs and loved his duties.”

He continued, that it is thought Tarcisius was “an acolyte, an altar boy”, and pointed out that during this period, that of the Valerian Persecution, “even bringing the Eucharist to the sick and the prisoners was very dangerous”.

The Pope added that St Tarcisius’ witness “shows us the great love we must have towards the Eucharist”, which is “a treasure we cannot measure”, and “an open road to eternal life, the greatest gift that Jesus has left us”.

The Holy Father advised the altar servers to “carry out with love, with devotion and with faithfulness your task of serving; prepare yourselves well for the Holy Mass! Helping your priests in the service at the altar you contribute to making Jesus closer, to being ever more present in the world, in everyday life, in the Church and in every place.”