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Ireland was then home to 3,171,697 Catholics. It was selected to host the congress as 1932 was the 1500th anniversary of Saint Patrick's arrival. The chosen theme was "The Propagation of the Sainted Eucharist by Irish Missionaries."
Two days before the Congress, Time Magazine noted the Congress' special theme:
Previous Congresses have had their characteristic notes, wrote Managing Editor Vincent de Paul Fitz-patrick of The Catholic Review. In Chicago there was the "enthusiasm of the Americans"; in Rome "the everlasting glory of the church"; in Spain "the love of beauty and gallantry of the Spanish"; in Carthage "the memory of the martyrs." In Dublin, undoubtedly, it would be "the Faith of the Irish."
The city of Dublin was decorated with banners, bunting, garlands, and replica round towers. Seven ocean liners moored in the port basins and along Sir John Rogerson's Quay. These were De Grasse, Doric, Dresden, Duchess of Bedford, Marnix van Sint Aldegonde, Rio Bravo and Sierra Cordoba. Five others, Antonio, Laconia, Lapland, Samaria and Saturnia anchored around Scotsmans Bay. The liners acted as floating hotels and could accommodate from 130 to 1,500 people on each. The Blue Hussars, a ceremonial cavalry unit of the Irish Army formed to escorted the President of Ireland on state occasions first appeared in public as an honor guard for the visiting Papal Legate representing Pope Pius XI.
John Charles McQuaid, President of Blackrock College, hosted a large garden party on the grounds of the college to welcome the papal legate, where the many hundreds of bishops assembled for the Congress had the opportunity to mingle with a huge gathering of distinguished guests and others who had paid a modest subscription fee.
The final public mass of the congress was held on 26 June in Phoenix Park at an altar designed by the eminent Irish Architect John J. Robinson of Robinson & Keefe Architects, at 1pm on Sunday, and was celebrated by Michael Joseph Curley, Archbishop of Baltimore. A radio station was set up in Athlone to coincide with the Congress. (Known as Radio Athlone, in 1938 it became Radio Éireann). The ceremonies included a live radio broadcast by Pope Pius XI from the Vatican. John Mc Cormack the world famous Irish tenor sang César Franck's Panis angelicus at the mass.
Approximately 25% of the population of Ireland attended the mass and afterwards four processions left the Park to O'Connell Street where approximately 500,000 people gathered on O'Connell Bridge for the concluding Benediction given by the Papal Legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri. The Dundalk Democrat described the event:
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. ...The men and women of long ago... from the high place in Heaven won by their heroic piety... must have looked down upon this glorious scene with serene happiness and benediction.
The English Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton was also present, and observed: "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."
On the other hand, such an overwhelming display of Catholicity only confirmed to Protestants in the North, the necessity of the border.
The architect appointed for the Congress was John J. Robinson who had spent some years in a seminary before he became an Architect. The buildings have a Neo-Greek classical theme and consist of:
Offices for the Congress Organisers in Lower Abbey St, Dublin.
Congress altar on O'Connell Bridge.
Archway at Blackrock, Co. Dublin half way between Dun Laoghaire where the ships arrived from Holyhead and Dublin City.
Congress altar and associated buildings in Phoenix Park.
Many houses around the country were also decorated for the occasion.
- O'Dwyer, Rory. "On show to the world: the Eucharistic Congress, 1932", History Ireland, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2007), Volume 15
- "In Dublin". Time Magazine. 1932-06-20. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2008-06-22. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- The Church in Dublin: 1940-1965, by Roland Burke Savage, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Winter 1965
- McGarry, Patsy. "1932 Eucharistic Congress: display of Irish Catholicism unmatched even by papal visit", The Irish Times, June 23, 2008
- "Eucharistic Congress - A description", Ballymena Parish
- Files of Robinson & Keefe Architects
Media related to 31st International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin at Wikimedia Commons