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 Dublin) or any other period,” the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said today.
“Its strength will be the quality of people’s faith, not numbers. It will be a Congress of prayer,” he said.
Archbishop Martin was speaking at a press conference in Maynooth this afternoon as the Irish Bishops’ Conference summer meeting came to an end.
It had been brought forward from its usual June dates so as not to clash with the 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 just between just 3,000 and 4,000 tickets still available.
Fr Doran recalled that at the last Eucharistic Congress in Quebec four years ago approximately 12,000 registered with 35,000 at the final event. He attributed the larger numbers registered for the 2012 Dublin Congress to the Irish diaspora and the influence of Irish missionaries in Africa.
Altogether 7,000 pilgrims were coming from 102 countries overseas, including 1,000 from Canada, others from “the two Congos, Uganda, El Salvador, Korea, and 17 from Turkmenistan.”
He said the budget for the Congress was €11.8 million, one 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 further contributions from Ireland and Bishops’ Conferences abroad.
Archbishop Martin felt there would “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. It would be “the beginnings of a change of image that the Catholic Church presents of its identity to Irish society,” he said.
The vice president of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Rev Prof Michael Mullaney spoke of the Theological Symposium which 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 about 200 might register to attend but that figure was already 320 and it seemed likely that this could rise to 400.
The Bishops Conference also received updates from the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) and its Towards Healing support services for survivors of abuse agency.
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 NBSC “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 over 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 also announced at the press conference 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.
The appointment of a new spiritual director at the College has yet to be made.
It was also announced that Rev Dr Kevin O’Gorman has been appointed lecturer in Moral Theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.