Congress will not be a re-run of 1932 event, says Martin


THE EUCHARISTIC Congress which begins in Dublin on June 10th “will reflect the church in Ireland today. It will not be a going back to the church of 1932 [when the last Eucharistic Congress took place in Ireland] or any other period,” the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said.

“Its strength will be the quality of people’s faith, not numbers. It will be a congress of prayer,” he added.

Archbishop Martin was speaking at a press conference in Maynooth yesterday as the Irish Bishops’ Conference summer meeting came to an end. It was brought forward so as not to clash with the Eucharistic Congress, which continues to June 17th.

Congress secretary general Fr Kevin Doran said that to date 22,500 people had registered for the week of events, with participation of between 10,000 and 12,000 expected at the RDS each day. An estimated 90 per cent of those registered were lay people, he said.

“A full house” was expected at the final Mass at Croke Park on Sunday, June 17th, with between 3,000 and 4,000 tickets available.

He recalled that at the last Eucharistic Congress in Quebec four years ago, about 12,000 registered, with 35,000 at the final event. He attributed the larger numbers registered for the 2012 Dublin vongress to the Irish diaspora and the influence of Irish missionaries in Africa.

Altogether 7,000 pilgrims from 102 countries would attend,including 1,000 from Canada and others from “the two Congos, Uganda, El Salvador , Korea, and 17 from Turkmenistan”.

He said the budget for the congress was €11.8 million, a third of which had been contributed at collections in churches throughout Ireland. Another quarter would be raised from participants themselves, with the remainder to be raised in Ireland and from bishops’ conferences abroad. Archbishop Martin felt there would be “no great clash” between congress events and Ireland’s international soccer team’s participation in the European Championships.

The congress “will be a big event for the Catholic Church and I hope it will create an image of the Irish Catholic Church which is appropriate to our times,” he said.

Vice-president of St Patricks College, Maynooth Rev Prof Michael Mullaney spoke of the theological symposium that takes place there before the Eucharistic Congress, from June 6th to 9th. It would explore the ecclesiology of Communion 50 years after the opening of Vatican II, with “over 30 noted international theologians” taking part, he said.

It had been expected that 200 might register to attend but that figure was already at 320, and it seemed likely this could rise to 400, he said.

The bishops’ conference also received updates from the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) and its Towards Healing support services agency for survivors of abuse. Archbishop Martin said there was general agreement among the bishops that there was need for additional personnel to be made available to the NBSC but no final decision had been made on how this would be done. He felt reviews undertaken by the board “should be self-financing”.

Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns diocese drew attention to the work of the Towards Healing services, which last year provided 28,000 counselling sessions to more than 1,300 survivors, while its helpline responded to nearly 12,000 calls. Its work involved “700 independent therapeutic counsellors” whose services were provided at no cost to survivors.

It was announced that Fr George Hayes of Kerry diocese has been appointed vice-rector of the Irish College in Rome and Fr Hugh Clifford of Galway diocese has been appointed director of formation there.