1 June 2011
Address by Cardinal Seán Brady to meeting of National Delegates in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress 2012, All Hallows College, Dublin
My dear Brother Bishops, dear Sisters, Rev Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, on behalf of the Catholic Church I welcome each and every one of you to Ireland and to Dublin. I thank you most sincerely for coming – and I realise that many of you have travelled thousands of miles to be here. But I know that your journey is indeed a labour of love – love of the Sacrament of Christ’s love for us, present in our midst until the end of time. Your presence here is also a significant act of solidarity as we prepare to host the Congress and we appreciate it.
I welcome all of you but I want to extend a very special warm welcome to the representatives from the Holy See led by Archbishop Piero Marini. Archbishop Marini is a priest of the Diocese of Bobbio, a place that is dear to the heart of every Irish Catholic – for it is the last resting place on earth of our missionary hero, St. Columbanus. Welcome to an Ireland which hosted the Eucharistic Congress of 1932 – céad míle fáilte rómhaimh go léir. There are some who attended the 1932 Congress still alive and who intend to be present next year and they will be very welcome. They have some great memories of that wonderful event.
We note a great interest in those countries that have traditional links with Ireland: England and Wales, USA, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia. But also on mainland Europe – places influenced by Columbanus, Gaul, Killian. In these countries pilgrims are already turning their eyes to Ireland and making plans.
I welcome you here to All Hallows College, one of the great missionary seminaries of this country. It was founded to educate priests mainly for the English-speaking world. From its gates there went forth newly ordained priests to celebrate the Eucharist “from the rising of the sun to its setting”. Now All Hallows College – under the leadership of the Vincentian Fathers, the Lazarists – specialises in adult faith formation, offering courses in theology and philosophy to lay men and women, along with intellectual and spiritual formation, preparing them to play their part in the local Church.
I welcome the delegates of those countries where there are still considerable numbers of Irish missionaries – like Kenya and Uganda, Brazil and the Philippines, Korea and Tanzania, India and Zambia. It is simply wonderful to have you here.
We have had some distinguished visitors to our shores in recent weeks – Queen Elizabeth II of England and her husband, Prince Philip. It was an historic visit, the first time a British Monarch visited Dublin in almost 100 years. And President Obama of the United States visited the country also, paying a visit to the place of his ancestral roots in Co. Offaly. We are delighted to welcome more distinguished visitors here this week and look forward to thousands more next year for the Congress.
A distinguished English man once said about the Irish “It is the Mass that matters”. The Irish people made huge sacrifices to keep devotion to the Mass alive. When the Churches were destroyed during times of persecution they celebrated in the open air, on Mass Rocks, on the hillsides, and in valleys. When the Penal Laws forbade Catholics to have schools and colleges and seminaries, the Irish Colleges on the continent in places like Salamanca, Lisbon, Paris, and Rome played important roles in fostering the devotion of our people to the Mass. Therefore our international links prior to Catholic Emancipation were significant in the education of priests and the transmission of the Church’s faith in the Eucharist.
I have great memories of the last International Eucharistic Congress held in Quebec, Canada in 2008. I remember the joy of hearing the news there that Ireland had been chosen to be the venue of the 2012 Congress. But I also remember the wonderful celebration of the Liturgies and the discussions there. I remember well the advice given that the year of preparation was almost as vital as the actual celebration itself.
When the Holy Father announced at the Quebec Congress that Dublin, Ireland would be the venue for 2012, I felt a tremendous sense of pride and joy. Of course there were some who had misgivings. But there is a growing conviction that this will be a good Congress. Is féidir linn. May your discussions help to make it so.
In Canada it was the Ark that was chosen as the Logo; in Ireland we have chosen the Bell. The Congress Bell was blessed in Dublin on 17th March, St. Patrick’s Day. It was brought directly to Armagh, St. Patrick’s City. From there it is wending its way around Ireland from diocese to diocese, from city to city, from village to village, being heard throughout the country. It is waking us up to the fact that a great world-wide event is about to take place in Dublin next year.
You begin your meeting on the memorial feast of St Justin, Martyr, who died about the year 165. He has left us, in his First Apology in defence of the Christians, one of the earliest and most outstanding accounts of the celebration of the Eucharist. In the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Justin and his companions we read that “these holy martyrs went out to the usual place of execution glorifying God. And so they won their martyrs crown professing their faith in their Saviour”. Obviously their courageous faith was sustained and nourished by their celebration of the Eucharist.
Two things stand out for me in this account of the Eucharist. First of all, what he says about the President of the assembly, “Bread and wine and water are brought up; the president offers prayers and thanksgiving as best he can.” Secondly, what is said about the collection for the benefit of the poor, “Those who are well provided for if they wish to do so contribute what each one thinks fit. This is collected and left with the president so that he can help the orphans and widows and the sick and all who are in need for any other reason.”
I hope that the celebration of this Eucharistic Congress will inspire all of us to always offer and celebrate the Eucharist as best we can. Surely there is a challenge there to constantly pay attention to the Ars Celebrandi in our lives. Twice St Justin says, “Those of us who are well provided help out any who are in need.” It is a stark reminder that one purpose of the celebration of the memorial of the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ is to make us more aware and generous towards those less well-off in the world. Two new formulae for the dismissal at the end of Mass, are now inserted by Pope Benedict in response to observations made at the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. They are: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” and “Go in Peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” They clearly indicate that the Eucharist sends us forth for a purpose and strengthens us to live like Christ.
Tomorrow, I believe you are visiting Croke Park, nearby here, where it is proposed to celebrate the final Eucharist. Croke Park, Headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association, is one of the most revered sporting temples of this Island. It is named after Archbishop Croke, Archbishop of Cashel, and Patron of the Association.
Queen Elizabeth visited it during her visit, in a gesture that was filled with significance, because Croke Park was the scene of the horrific killing of a number of spectators by British Crown forces during the War of Independence. The visit of Queen Elizabeth was seen by many as an important gesture of regret and of reconciliation.
I know that you are praying for the success of the forthcoming International Eucharistic Congress next year, here in Dublin. I implore you to ask the people you represent to pray especially that the Congress may achieve its full potential here in Ireland.
Eighty years ago the International Eucharistic Congress was also celebrated here in Dublin. I believe that it had a huge impact on the minds and hearts of the people, then and since. I get the impression that Ireland faced some tough challenges then. It had just ten years previously emerged from a bloody War of Independence and a short but bitter civil war. The wounds were raw and deep. Ireland was facing into three decades of severe economic conditions and widespread emigration. What was the outcome? There began a slow but sure process of reconciliation between Ireland and Britain culminating in the historic visit of Queen Elizabeth II, two weeks ago.
Yes, there were harsh economic conditions during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and very high emigration, but there was a huge number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life leading to a phenomenal flourishing of missionary activity over the period 1932 – 1982.
It is ten years since the signing of the Belfast agreement which hopefully marked the beginning of the end of the political violence in this country. There is a distance yet to be travelled on the road to reconciliation.
There are harsh economic conditions in prospect for some time but there will be hundreds of young people, from Ireland, going to Madrid for World Youth Day. My hope is that those young people will play their part in the new evangelisation of Ireland.
My hope for the Eucharistic Congress is that it will help us all celebrate the mysteries of our Redemption more deeply. My hope is that it will strengthen our unity with Christ whose prayer before the Father has become our Prayer in every Liturgy.
As preparations are made for the International Eucharistic Congress it is also my hope that these important preparations will assist in the renewal of the faith in our country, reinforce the good preparations that are being made for the implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, and the ongoing mission of sharing the Good News that is at the heart of all Church life and that was articulated in the National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland that was launched last January.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge publicly the sterling work that is being done by the staff of the International Eucharistic Congress led by Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General, and Anne Griffin, General Manager. I know that the work they have done to date is much appreciated. I wish you a very pleasant stay in Ireland and fruitful discussions on your important task and I pray the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit upon your deliberations. Bail ó Dhía ar an obair.
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