Patrician Year (1961): The Arrival of Cardinal Agagianian

The Cardinal Legate greeted by the Taoiseach and the Abp. of Dublin

The papal legate for the Patrician Congress, Cardinal Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian, was given a spectacular reception when he arrived in Dublin on Saturday, 17th June, 1961. Travelling in the Aer Lingus Boeing Jet Padraig he landed in Dublin Airport (profusely decorated in papal and Irish flags and emblems) at approximately 12.45 p.m.

In the Padraig’s Golden Shamrock compartment, which was reserved for the Legate’s suite and the Dublin escorting party, a special Decal of the Papal Arms was fitted to honour the Legate. After boarding the plane in Rome, he was greeted by Arthur Walls, General Sales Manager of the airline, with an illuminated welcome scroll in a polished oak case, bearing the inscription “CÉAD MÍLE FÁILTE”. Upon arriving off the Irish coast his plane was escorted by four Vampire Jets under the command of Commandant G. O’Connor. After the plane had been joined by the escorts, a special message of welcome from the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, was flashed from Dublin Airport. As soon as the Cardinal alighted from the plane, the jet escort flew over the airport and dipped wings twice in salute. The papal anthem was played by the Number One Army Band and a 21-gun salute was thundered out by the 10th Battery of the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment from McKee Barracks under Captain Hugh McGrillen.

Upon his descent from the plane, the Legate was met at the bottom of the steps by the Archbishop of Dublin, who introduced him to prominent dignitaries, including the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Seán Lemass, the Tánaiste [Deputy Prime Minister] Seán MacEntee, the Papal Nuncio, and the Minister for External Affairs, Frank Aiken.

The Legate was greeted at the Dublin city boundaries at 1.15 p.m. by the City Council and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Maurice E. Dockrell, who, to the fanfare of trumpets, presented a message of welcome in illuminated manuscript.

Cardinal Agagianian subsequently proceeded to Áras an Uachtaráin, the Irish presidential residence, for a reception with President Éamon de Valera. Over 100,000 people lined the seven-mile route from Dublin Airport to Áras an Uachtaráin to greet the Legate.

At the liturgical reception in the Pro-Cathedral later that evening, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid gave the following welcoming address:

Under God and by favour of the See of Peter, the Irish people owe their Catholic Faith chiefly to the rugged labours of St. Patrick.

This Congress, celebrated in Dublin, fifteen hundred years after the death of our Apostle, is an act of humble gratitude for that Holy Faith.

In St. Patrick’s day, the Dublin that has become the Capital of our little island was at most a tiny hamlet on the river’s edge. In like manner, the small seed of Faith that this stranger sowed in our midst, has grown into the tree of which Our Divine Master speaks in the Gospel, a wide-spreading tree beneath whose protecting shade so very many peoples of the earth now rest, in the true knowledge and effective love of God.

In recognition, we must believe, of the share that God has permitted us to take in the diffusion of that Faith, our Holy Father, Pope John the twenty-third, by a singular act of graciousness, has been pleased to send to Dublin a Legate, who, in the name and by the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, should preside over the solemn functions of our Congress.

That an eminent Prince of Holy Church should be honoured by the intimate choice of the Holy Father is already a noted privilege. But that his Holiness should choose for this mission a Cardinal, whose deep scholarship and apostolic zeal have caused him to be set at the head of the Sacred Congregation that inspires and directs the missionary endeavours of the Church, is surely for His Eminence, though rich in merit, a mark of predilection and for our faithful people a delicate tribute to their constant Faith.

In their unobtrusive Faith this Diocese and City foster a warmth of active affection for all that touches the person of the Vicar of Christ on earth.

Very gladly, then, and with dutiful homage, in this Pro-Cathedral of the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, that links us in immediate memory with our emergence from the Penal gloom, on behalf of the Clergy and the Faithful of this Diocese, we welcome to Dublin, His Eminence, Gregory Peter, Cardinal Agagianian, Legate a latere of His Holiness The Pope.

Posted on June 15, 2011, in Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, Irish Church-State Relations, Irish History, Patrician Year (1961), Persecution, St. Patrick. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Dublin city at that time extended only as far as the boundary between Whitehall and Santry. Lord Mayor Maurice Dockrell was a member of the Church of Ireland but kissed the ring of Cardinal Agiagianian when he welcomed him. The latter was an exotic figure to some degree as he belonged to the Armenian Catholic Church. He was also spoken of as a possible future pope. The Word had an article about him around 1959 or 1960. The Cardinal’s beard added to his being somewhat exotic. The only bearded priests we knew at that time were the Capuchins.

    As a member of the Colleges Volunteer Corps I was involved in saluting Cardinal Agagianian on a number of occasions. We genuflected while saluting him as a representative of the Holy Father.

    The main organiser of the Patrician Congress in Dublin was Monsignor G. Thomas Fehily, from Ballineen, Co Cork, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin. I think that he was also the principal organiser in Dublin when Blessed John Paul visited in 1979. Monsignor Fehily died on 2 January 2010. We kept in touch with each other from time to time down the years.

    The people of Dublin were very proud of Lord Mayor Dockrell. He was gracious and had a bit of ‘polish’, coming from a well-to-do background. (When Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines in 1995 for World Youth Day, President Fidel Ramos, a Protestant, was in power. He could not have been more gracious. When John Paul visited in 1981 the ostentatiously pious Imelda Marcos, involved with her husband in destroying the country, was an utter embarrassment to everyone. Pardon the aside).

    Among those Cardinal Agagianian ordained to the priesthood were Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva, Fiji, and Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. []

  2. Very interesting Father — can I ask, were you at any time given a blue handbook for the celebrations? (I have one — which I’ll put up in a few days — and I’m just curious as to how popular it was.)

  3. I can’t remember, Shane. Maybe when you put it up it will jog my memory.

  4. One of my early memories is being an altar sever when Cardinal Agagianian visited and celebrated Mass at our newly decorated church of Our Lady of Good Counsel Mourne Road Drimnagh. It was a great occasion.

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