My views on the International Eucharistic Congress are somewhat mixed and although I was in Dublin three times last week…I feel my original opinions somewhat refined (distorted?) by last nights excellent RTE “Would You Believe” Special presented by the peerless Mick Peelo.
My first observation is that the grainy footage we have all seen of the 1932 International Eucharistic Congress show Ireland just ten years after Independence and reflect the overbearing presence of the Catholic Church. The 2012 Congress was a “Church” rather than “National” occasion reflecting that Church and State are more seperate than before.
Of course the Congress itself was controversial. The Irish Catholic Church is still reeling from scandals and a large number of people in secular Ireland are apathetic or even hostile to the Church. All entirely reasonable……but some people have a hatred which is less reasonable.
The “Would You Believe” special highlighted the involvement of many Faiths other than Catholicism in the week-long Congress. This is probably not something I would have noticed but I did notice that several aspects of Catholicism presented itself. There was more than one “model”. The official programme spoke of “workshops” to discuss various aspects of Faith. And while it would be unfair to categorise this as controlling the conversation..it did mean that discussion was within certain set boundaries.
The “fringe” meetings in and around the RDS were actually much more interesting as this was the main focus of the Media. Indeed the middle aged casually dressed men were priests advertising their liberalism, while other priests (and indeed laity) dressed in more traditional robes advertised their devotion to the old ways.
It was an odd mix. There are I think already two Catholic Churches operating in Ireland. A Schism has already occured and probably the fault line is on the issue of Women.
For the moment at least, the “official” Church seems to be in some kinda control. The rift with the Vatican was emphasised by the disconnected big screen image of Pope Benedict XVI……a recorded message to the Congress. Ireland is not his favourite place and easy enough to work that out from his body language. A Pope more favourably disposed to the Irish Church would have attended the Congress.
Of course within certain sections of the Irish Church……the Pope is hardly an inspiration.
And within Ireland……….a poll for most unpopular German would be a close run thing between the Pope and Angela Merkel.
And the International Eucharistic Congress was all going so well until the Pope showed up.