31st Eucharistic Congress 1932 Dublin

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31st Eucharistic Congress 1932 Dublin

Rationale for Staging Congress

  • Irish Free State founded in December 1921
  • Vast majority of Population was Catholic (Protestant/ Unionist fears)
  • Irish Free State established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1929
  • Pope Pius XI agreed to Ireland staging the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 (to commemorate the anniversary of St. Patrick arriving in Ireland in 432 AD) Eucharistic Congress held every 3 years around the world
  • Opportunity for Ireland to promote both its Catholic culture & allegiance and its ability to stage world events, underlining its right to be independent

Securing & Organising the Eucharistic Congress

  • W.T. Cosgrave President of Executive Council
  • Eoin O’Duffy
  • Garda Commissioner

Build-up to Congress 1931 - 1932

  • Eoin O’Duffy was given the job of organising the Eucharistic Congress
  • O’Duffy spent a year organising housing & accommodation for all the visitors and participants in the Eucharistic Congress
  • Every parish and diocese organised fundraising for travel to Dublin and bunting, flags & banners to be displayed at the Congress
  • Prayer meetings were held throughout the country, bringing a sense of occasion & celebration to the practise of the Catholic faith

General Election 1932

  • To prevent the Eucharistic Congress clashing with a scheduled General Election in late1932, Cosgrave brought the election forward to February.
  • Cosgrave lost the election, so now Eamon deValera & Fianna Fáil would take over government and reap the benefit of its association & success

Preparations for 20th June 1932

  • Eucharistic Congress was scheduled to begin 20th June, 1932.
  • In the months previous, large-scale decorations and improvements were made throughout Dublin city centre.
  • Bunting was erected throughout the city and altars built. Painting facades became commonplace throughout the city

Papal Legate arrives in Dublin 20th June 1932

  • Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, the Papal Legate, arrives in Dun Laoghaire on board The Cambria to preside over the 31st Eucharistic Congress.

Symbolism of Church-State Relationship

  • Air Corps welcome for Papal Legate (in the shape of a cross) underlined the State’s commitment to a Catholic identity
  • The large military presence and display, including the Hussars, specially dressed for the Legate’s arrival, also underlined the State’s total commitment to a Catholic Identity
  • The subservient nature of both Bishops and politicians served to underline the spiritual authority and to a lesser degree, the political influence of the Church over the State.

Diaspora Returns: Catholics arrive in Dublin

  • Catholics from around the Europe & the world came to Dublin to attend the 31st Eucharistic Congress Many Irish-Americans attended. Many of these Irish-Americans had parents & grandparents who emigrated during and after the Great Famines of the 1840’s
  • Many of these Irish-Americans came both as an expression of their faith and an opportunity to celebrate the independence of their ‘homeland’.
  • *Opportunity to strengthen Irish-American ties, culturally and economically

Congress Week

  • Special day of celebrations for men, women & children
  • Phoenix Park was the centre for each day’s celebrations
  • 300 Bishops & Archbishops attended
  • Special altar built in Phoenix Park
  • Altar also built on O’Connell Bridge
  • Cardinal Lauri celebrated mass in the Pro-Cathedral

Phoenix Park Celebrations (22nd – 26th June)

  • Pius XI’s broadcast message from Vatican to Phoenix Park

Blackrock College Garden Party

  • Garden Party attended by 10,000 people

Final Mass Sunday, 26th June 1932

  • Almost 25% of the Irish Free State’s population attended the final mass on Sunday in the Phoenix Park
  • After the mass, four processions left the Park and travelled to O’Connell Bridge for the final blessing and closing of the Eucharistic Congress by Cardinal Lauri. Approximately 500,000 people attended.

Reflections on Eucharistic Week

  • “I confess I was myself enough of an outsider to feel flash through my mind, as the illimitable multitude began to melt away towards the gates and roads and bridges, the instantaneous thought "This is Democracy; and everyone is saying there is no such thing.”
  • G.K. Chesterton
  • “Here men and women are proud to give evidence of their Faith: proud of being sons and daughters of the dead and gone Catholics who kept the flame alive in evil days of persecution and spoliation.”
  • Dundalk Democrat

Why was the Eucharistic Congress Important to the Irish Free State?

  • It showed the new Irish State could organise and stage major world events
  • It helped to heal the divisions of the Civil War and unite people of different political allegiances after ten years of bitter political in-fighting (Cumann na nGaedhael v. Fianna Fáil)
  • It underlined the Catholic identity of the Irish Free State, as a definitive contrast to the British Anglican (Protestant) identity
  • It also helped DeValera to assert a close relationship with the Catholic Church, in particular with Bishop Charles McQuaid, who would have a strong influence on the character of the 1937 Bunreacht na hEireann
  • Those who had been excommunicated during and after the Civil War were welcomed back into the religious community of the Catholic Church

Impact of Congress: Church & State

  • The State
  • The Church
  • Successful and hugely popular event cemented the State’s legitimacy & international profile
  • Politicians, like DeValera, achieved great political and social capital by association with the Congress
  • The State would come to rely heavily on the Church for many of its own central social duties; education & health would be dominated by the Catholic Church for decades to come
  • The Catholic Church in Ireland was the biggest winner. The hegemony of Catholicism was now absolute in the Irish Free State, politically & socially
  • Bishop John Charles McQuaid achieved enormous political capital in relation to his own career. He would later be made an Archbishop on DeValera’s recommendation

Wider Impacts of Eucharistic Congress

  • ‘A Catholic State for a Catholic People’
  • Solidified partition: culturally, religiously & politically
  • Heightened Protestant fears and marginalisation within Irish Free State and subsequent Republic
  • Modern Ireland: Loudspeakers, logistics of large-scale modern travel. Also, Pope Pius XI’s message of goodwill on radio brought Ireland onto the world stage and cemented the Irish self-image of modernity & independence

1932 – 1979: The ‘Catholic State’ of Ireland

  • Between 1932 and 1979, when Pope John Paul II came on an official state visit to the Republic of Ireland, Catholicism enjoyed an almost unopposed position in Irish society. It’s influence on Irish political affairs was considerable also.

Exam Questions

  • “To what extent did the 1932 Eucharistic Congress and/or the language and education policies of Irish Governments promote Irish cultural identity?”
  • 2010 LC Exam
  • “What attempts were made to promote cultural identity, North & South, during the period 1912 – 1945?”
  • 2009 LC Exam
  • “What was the significance of the Eucharistic Congress 1932 for the Irish Free State?”
  • 2008 LC Exam
  • “How was cultural identity promoted in Ireland, North & South, between 1920 & 1949?”
  • 2007 LC Exam

Essay Plan

Essay Plan

  • Introduction: Creating an Irish State Cultural Identity (Background Context)
  • Paragraph 1: Setting & Significance of 31st Eucharistic Congress (Diaspora & international nature of Congress )
  • Paragraph 2: Planning & Symbolism
  • Paragraph 3: Modern Ireland as portrayed by Eucharistic Congress
  • Paragraph 4: Church-State Relationship
  • Paragraph 5: Impacts on Irish Free State (Social & Political)
  • Conclusion: Legacies & impacts of 31st Eucharistic Congress on Irish Free State

Introduction: Creating an Irish Cultural Identity

  • Irish Free State – ‘dominion’ of British Commonwealth/ unstable & damaged socially by Civil War/
  • Eucharistic Congress granted by Pope Pius XI after Irish Free State established diplomatic relations in 1929/
  • W.T. Cosgrave’s decision to bring it forward to avoid election would be a turning point in DeValera’s relationship with Conservative elements in Ireland, especially the Church.
  • Opportunity for young Irish State to show its independence, politically & culturally: define its cultural identity
  • Thereby, strengthening Irish ambitions for greater autonomy (Ironically, the Congress would also strengthen partition at a cultural level)

Paragraph 1: Setting & Significance

  • Eucharistic Congress held every three years: the ‘Catholic Olympic Games’ i.e. a world event, attended by a vast international mix
  • Irish Diaspora Returns to Ireland; particularly the Irish-American contingent, would associate the success and socially-upward Irish-Americans with young Irish Free State (many of whose grandparents had left during famine & social disintegration of many parts of Ireland
  • International Catholicism: G.K. Chesterton, an English Catholic writer, was one of thousands of foreigners who attended the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Presence of British, French, American, German & Italian Catholics greatly projected the ambition & unity of the young Irish Free State as a modern state

Paragraph 2: Planning & Symbolism

  • Arrival of Papal Legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, on June 20th 1932, marked the beginning of the 31st International Eucharistic Congress.
  • Irish Air Corps performed a fly-by in the formation of a Christian Cross. Signifies the complete State commitment to Catholicism and Papal Legate’s presence.
  • Irish Hussar Cavalry, specially commissioned for the occasion, served as a guard of honour for the Legate.
  • DeValera & Cosgrave, representing both major parties in Irish Free State, walked together in procession during the Congress. (symbolising the healing/ unifying nature of the Eucharistic Congress)

Paragraph 3: Modern Ireland

  • Planning & Logistics: 1 million people arrived in Dublin, approximately 25% of the Irish Free State population. Trains and buses carried most of the travelling attendees.
  • Eoin O’Duffy spent a year planning the logistics of accommodation, procession and organisation of all the attendants at the Phoenix Park. Large-scale bunting, decorations were prominent throughout the city.
  • Loudspeakers & Radio: The use of loudspeakers was a novelty at this time, and essential to the crowd of 1 million at the Congress in Phoenix Park. Pope Pius XI’s radio broadcast from the Vatican to the Congress in Dublin underlined the promise & reality of modernisation & progress in Ireland.
  • Ocean Liners berthed in Dublin harbour acted as ‘floating hotels’

P. 4: Church-State Relationship

  • For a year before the Congress, every parish & diocese in Irish Free State was busily preparing for the event. Prayer meetings, discussions & fund-raising created a sense of celebration of Catholicism throughout the country.
  • Bishop John Charles McQuaid ensured before the Congress began that both Cosgrave & DeValera would act in a dignified manner, deliberately putting politics second to the cultural event about to take place.
  • DeValera & many of the Fianna Fáil members, some of whom had been excommunicated during the Irish Civil War of 1922 – 23, were welcomed back into the fold of the Catholic community in Ireland. Indeed, this would be the beginning of the considerable influence of both McQuaid & Catholicism over DeValera’s social & political policies to come.
  • State was now portrayed as a totally Catholic State, and Church influence on education & health would be considerable over the next five decades

P. 5: Political & Social Impacts on Irish Free State

  • Church-State relationship firmly established: 1937 Bunreacht na hEireann would recognise the “special position” that the Catholic Church enjoyed. Significance of this cannot be over-stated: Irish State would entrust a very large section of its duties (health & education) to the Church to oversee and run
  • Inadvertently strengthened partition and polarised the cultural differences between North & South
  • DeValera & Fianna Fáil associated with the success of the Eucharistic Congress

Conclusion: Legacy & Impacts (1932 – 1979)

  • Irish Free State’s need for a distinct, unifying cultural identity to a) promote & legitimise Irish independence and b) to heal and unify political divisions following bitterness of Irish Civil War
  • 1932 would mark the beginning of a decade of international turmoil during which DeValera & the Irish Free State would exercise a very prominent voice in international affairs at the League of Nations. 1932 Eucharistic Congress served as a vital international advertisement of the Irish Free State & its political & social values
  • Church would exercise a near 50-year hegemony (domination) over political & social matters. Contraception & Divorce remained illegal up until the late 1980’s & 1990’s. Also, the Church would dominate Irish Education. The influence of the Church on Bunreacht na hEireann (1937) was considerable.
  • Partition was strengthened by the overt nature of the State’s commitment to the Eucharistic Congress and served to marginalise Protestants within the Irish Free State.
  • Papal visit in 1979 by Pope John Paul II marked the beginning of a social decline after a period of extremely intimate church-state relationship (1932 – 1979)

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