Saturday, June 2, 2012

Those were the days

After the 1932 Eucharistic Congress the Irish Independent brought out a pictorial record which became a treasured possession in many homes. It was a very impressive volume which contained pictures of the main events and of everybody associated with the Congress, cardinals, abbots, committees of every conceivable function. It also had a huge collection of press cuttings on the Congress from around the world.

I have my granny's copy and thought people might like to have a peek at a few pictures which contrast then with now.

These are the Lord Mayor's heralds. Whatever about army trumpeters, could you imagine these guys turning out for real today?

The Governor General, James McNeill, brother of Eoin McNeill (see below) arrives at the Pro-Cathedral for the opening ceremony. One of the things that strikes you looking through the photos is the extent to which the trappings of the ancien régime were still around. Add to this the various papal insignia and uniforms and you might almost be living in a full blown monarchy.

When it came to the civil powers there was no question as to who outranked whom. This famous picture of the Lord Mayor "welcoming" the papal legate at the city gates (in Booterstown) says it all. In fact, on a subsequent visit to the Pope, the Lord Mayor tendered "the homage and the unalterable fidelity of the Citizens of Dublin to the Apostolic See". Note that this included all citizens irrespective of religion.

Another thing that struck me, and reminded me of a monarchy, was the way the legate, and other senior churchmen, seemed to constantly dispense blessings like fairy dust as they passed along the way. It reminded me of the monarch's wave from the royal coach or the rich showering coins on the grateful paupers lining the route.

I mentioned that there were loads of photos of people. I am just including two, which struck me as particularly interesting in view of our more usual historical view of the people concerned. First (above) is Eoin McNeill, the leader who cancelled 1916 and was subsequently Minister for Education in the first Free State Government. He was a speaker at the 1932 Congress.

Eoin O'Duffy, then still Police Commissioner, was the Chief Marshall of the Congress.

I'm sure people will discover other contrasts with this year's upcoming Congress.

I hope that one of the most striking contrasts will be between the pomp and triumphalism of 1932 and the humility, repentance and equality of this year's Congress. We'll just have to wait until after 17 June next to see what lessons have been learned and the nature of today's RC church in Ireland.

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