Not everyone is aware that the 50th International Eucharistic Congress is taking place in Dublin from 10 to 17 June 2012. The venue will be principally the RDS but Croke Park will also figure.
The last International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin was in 1932, and I suppose if you were trying to find a context for that year it might have been the tenth anniversary of Irish Independence or the centenary of Daniel O'Connell's establishment of the non-denominational cemetery in Glasnevin.
The context for next year's Congress is the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. In a masterpiece of understatement, Fr. Kevin Doran, General Secretary of the Congress Committee, says that "so much of the richness of the Council has not been unpacked".
Lets hope that the Congress gets down to the unpacking early in the proceedings. There is a lot of timewasting and backsliding to be remedied in a very short time.
Unlike its predecessor this Congress will have a strong ecumenical undercurrent. The first day is devoted to the Liturgy of the Word and Water with the emphasis on Baptism, which Fr. Doran reminds us "is mutually recognised by all the christian churches".
This is particularly important because ecumenism has not yet got beyond the stage where it is "not possible for us to share in the fulness of eucharistic communion" according to Fr. Doran. No doubt the RC conception of the real presence is one of the obstacles here.
Those of us who have had reason to study the 1932 Congress know what a mammoth undertaking it was, both for the RC church and for the newly independent state.
The organisers of the 2012 Congress are well aware of this: they are looking for between two and three thousand volunteers and a massive nationwide effort is already underway preparing for the occasion. You can get a quick flavour of it at the Congress website, or, if you have an hour to spare, listen to Fr. Doran explaining it to an American audience (below)
The general impression is of a very professional approach to the occasion even down to the use of the Congress logo.
Images and LogoAs I have not asked permission to use the logo I am simply linking below to the copy on the Congress website.
High resolution images are available upon request. Please do not use images from the website without permission from the IEC2012.
If you are looking for the use of our logo for publication the necessary permission must also be sought and the IEC guidelines must be followed. You can request permission for the use of the Logo and obtain the guidelines for its correct use by contacting our Marketing and Communications section by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +353 (0) 1 207 1840.
A Slow Slide
Dublin's Lord Mayor, Alfie Byrne (right), welcomes the Papal Legate, Cardinal Lauri, to the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Also in the picture are Eamon de Valera, President of the Executive Concil (Prime Minister), seated left, and Alderman P J Medlar, on Dev's left.
While the Pope normally sends a legate to the Eucharistic Congress there was some talk of him coming to Ireland in 2012, if not for the Congress itself then at least sometime during the year.
That now looks a very dubious prospect indeed. The wave of outrage and frustration which consumed the Irish people on the release of the latest clerical child-abuse report has led to some of their representatives going so far as to call for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio and the closure of Ireland's embassy at the Vatican. The report revealed Vatican collusion in covering up criminal activity and the continuing refusal of the current Papal Nuncio to cooperate with the investigating Commission.
This has led to reports of the Pope cancelling any possible trip to Ireland next year.
The situation today is wholly different from that in 1932 and even in 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited the country and was welcomed everywhere by enthusiastic crowds.
In 1932 the RC Church reigned supreme and was in a position even to challenge the civil power. It had a special position for itself written in to the Irish Constitution in 1937. In more recent times, and even from the time of Vatican II, there has been a steady erosion in the power of the Church. It is telling that two of the people most prominent in publicly welcoming John Paul II have completely fallen from grace.
Father Michael Cleary, the singing priest charged by the Archbishop of Dublin with bringing the Church to the youth, proved to have been sleeping with his housekeeper and even had a son with her, a son whom he never acknowledged this side of the grave.
Bishop Eamon Casey, a popular extrovert who, as a curate, had done admirable work in housing Irish immigrants in England, had an affair and a son with an American lady, neither of which he acknowledged until well after the story was broken by a national newspaper.
So the seeds were there in 1979 and revelations of clerical child-abuse in the last 20 years have stripped the Church of any semblance of moral authority. The collusion and non-cooperation of the Vatican has really put the cap on it.
It will be interesting, therefore, to observe how next year's Congress compares with that of 1932 or, for that matter, with the Pope's visit in 1979.