This may be a papal first.


The Holy Father Pope Francis will deliver a message at the opening ceremony of the 65th Los Angeles Religious EducationCongress 2021 (RECongress), on Thursday, February 18, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Office of Religious Education. Due to COVID-19 pandemic safety measures, the largest Catholic event of its kind which has previously drawn thousands will offer virtual presentations, liturgies, a dynamic virtual exhibit hall, and scheduled broadcasts, online workshops and on-demand content from Feb. 18-21 with all content available until March 21.

“It is a great blessing that the Holy Father will address our gathering, especially this year as so many are facing challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sister Rosalia Meza, senior director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Religious Education who announced the Holy Father’s participation today in a video available in English and Spanish. “Congress, be it virtual this year, is a time of encounter, a time to gather to celebrate and grow in our faith, bringing us closer to Christ and God’s loving mercy, but most importantly to take what we learn during these three days and take it back to our communities.

RECongress begins the day following Ash Wednesday (the first day of lent), inviting faithful to reflect and draw closer to God as the Lenten season commences. The virtual 4-day event will include presentations from leaders such as Bishop Robert McElroy of the Diocese of San Diego, Jesuit priest Fr. Gregory Boyle, international Catholic speaker and award winning author Katie Prejean McGrady, Sister Norma Pimentel named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2020, and virtual liturgies and prayer services, concerts and art exhibits.

The closing liturgy will be celebrated virtually by Archbishop José H. Gomez on Sunday, February 21.

During the on-demand Sacred Space, artists Angelica Sotiriou, France White, Linda McCray and Dennis Doyle will invite the public to enter their art and music studios, and there they will share how their relationship with God inspires their artwork and music. The virtual event will also include on-demand virtual music concerts with well know Catholic music artists to be held Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday night a special presentation celebrating RE Congress’ 65th anniversary titled, “Looking Back and Looking Forward: A Celebration of 65 years of Adult Days and 50 year of Youth Day.”

I had the opportunity to visit the LA RECongress a few years ago, when CNEWA had a booth in the exhibition hall in Anaheim.  I imagine it will be a very different virtual experience this year.