Patrician Year (1961): Archbishop McQuaid on the Conclusion of the Dublin Congress

The following letter from the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, was read out in all the churches of the Archdiocese of Dublin on Sunday, July 9th, 1961:

Very Reverend and Dear Father,

I wish to thank you for your share in the success of the Dublin Congress of the Patrician Year. I am grateful for the spiritual preparation that you organised in your parish.

It is a duty, but very much more a privilege, to thank the Faithful for their most generous co-operation. The very great numbers of those who went to Confession and received Holy Communion are an immediate proof of the Faith with which our appeal was answered. The marked place in the Congress taken by young persons, boys and girls, is to me perhaps the most consoling feature of all the week, for where the youth are interested, the future is secure.

This Congress must long be remembered by those who were given the grace to assist at its functions. The fact that the Vicar of Christ on earth, in a gesture of paternal affection, wished to make himself present in the person of a Legate already marked the Congress with the seal of Our Divine Master’s favour. The Legate a latere exemplified himself with a graciousness, self-sacrifice and courtesy that at once attracted the reverent affection of all the Faithful.

The choice of Cardinal Agagianian, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation that is concerned with the missions of the universe, was a delicate tribute to the share that Ireland has been allowed to take in bringing the Gospel message to foreign lands.

By the presence of so many Archbishops, Bishops and priests, representing the countries in which we have laboured for the Gospel of Christ, we were enabled, during those days, vividly to feel how truly we are united in the Faith, within the family of the one true Church.

No element of our life, religious or social, was missing in that union of the Faith. The President of our State most kindly acted as host to the Legate and the Papal mission. The Taoiseach, whose address at the concluding session will remain a classic statement of the willing acceptance of the claims of God in civic life; the members of the Government; the City Council; the local authorities; the organs of administration, Judiciary, Arms and the Garda, Trade Unions, University and learned bodies: one and all, dutifully and gladly, lent the dignity of their official presence to the many functions of the Congress.

And behind all those functions, especially in the crescendo of the Holy Mass celebrated in Croke Park, were the hidden people; the sick, the aged, the busy mothers held at home, the Sisters in their Convents; all they who, though absent in body but present by Faith, sustained the Congress by hearts upraised in silent prayer. To them, I would particularly express my gratitude.

For all who, by prayer and labour, offered to God this mighty act of gratitude for our holy Faith, I offer the grateful, humble prayer that God, by the intercession of His Blessed Mother, may preserve in us an enduring appreciation of the faith and a constant loyalty to the teaching of the Church.

Posted on September 30, 2011, in Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, Bishops' Pastorals, Irish Church-State Relations, Irish History, Missionaries, Patrician Year (1961). Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. A very gracious letter from the much – and unjustly – maligned Archbishop McQuaid. Sadly, his hope and prayer that future generations would be preserved in ‘an enduring appreciation of the faith and a constant loyalty to the teaching of the Church’ has not been fulfilled. It has to be recognised that the rejection of the Christian Catholic faith by so many in Ireland – and it is a rejection – has been catastrophic. There are probably many reasons for this and John Waters of The Irish Times has speculated that the rot was probably there before Vatican II. Maybe it was.

    Cardinal Agagianian was an ‘exotic’ figure. He was the leader of the Armenian Catholic Church. Hardly any Catholics in Ireland then had any awareness of the other 28 or 29 rites in the Catholic Church besides the Latin/Roman Rite. He also sported a beard. The only bearded clerics Irish people were familiar with in those days were the Capuchin friars.

    I’ve just finished reading Finola Kennedy’s excellent new biography of Frank Duff. He had a very interesting relationship with Archbishop McQuaid, at times a difficult one. But the Archbishop was nothing but pro-actively supportive of the Legion.

  2. Father I very much agree about Archbishop McQuaid. Dermot Keogh has an interesting article on him here. In fact quite a lot of modern-day anti-clerical sentiment in Ireland is rooted in a profound misunderstanding of the historic social role of the Church (seeing it as an imposition on a naturally secular populace, rather than a reflection of what people wanted at the time). This is supported by the canon of history that has won out in recent decades, and promoted relentlessly in the media: Ireland in the 40s and 50s is now demonized as a joyless, backward theocracy, with an omnipotent Church ‘ruling’ over a fearful and repressed people. Though I didn’t live through them, I’ve come to believe that the ‘bad old days’ were significantly more benign than we’re being told.

  3. A very interesting article. Dermot Keogh is two years younger than I am. I would not want to go back to the poverty of the 1950s, which wasn’t caused by De Valera, McQuaid or any others. From the beginnings of the Irish Free State successive governments were trying to alleviate this. Archbishop McQuaid set up many social services.

    I grew up in a working-class environment – my father was a builder’s foreman – but it was one where for many of us, though not for all, the future was hopeful. The majority of my contemporaries in O’Connell School belonged, I would say, to the first generation in our families to have a secondary education. Nearly all of us in my section who did the Leaving Cert in 1961 stayed in Ireland and did well professionally. I had a sense of being privileged in having a chance to go to secondary school. My parents were largely responsible for that.

    The 1950s certainly were grim for many, as previous decades going way back were even grimmer for more, not only in Ireland but in the rest of the United Kingdom of which we were part until 1922. There was still awful urban poverty. But there was more than grimness to life. Many of us lived near our grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, with an experience of an extended family in a way that isn’t as common now, as far as I can see.

    Many talk about the Irish Republic as being a ‘theocracy’. Catholics for centuries have formed only about 75 percent of the population of Ireland. However, the decision by the British government to create Northern Ireland in 1920 as an entity with a built-in Protestant majority skewered the situation in what was to become at first the Irish Free State. Within a decade the percentage of Protestants there shrank from about ten percent to five percent. None of this was by design of the Catholic Church. There is nothing sinister in any society where the ethos of a 95 percent majority tends to permeate everything.

    These are the thoughts of only one individual. Many of my contemporaries might see the 1950s in a different way. But Professor Keogh’s article is a very balanced one.

  4. Father Coyle: you’ve just encapsulated beautifully what I’ve been floundering about in putting forward for many’s the year now (usually to the derision of those around me who tend to have been immersed in the “repression” theory). It was something my own father always hated, and which he characterised as “lazy thinking”. He was born in 1918 and therefore was a fully functioning adult during the supposedly bad ol’ days before we were all enlightened by RTE and the oul’ wan of D’Olier St. While he never, ever denied that social conditions were terrible (his jobs included posts in the 2 Dublin Distilleries, Guinness and the North Wall, so he was well aware of what things were like) he also firmly held to the view that the Irish people got exactly what they wanted in terms of social and moral legislation and conditions.

    His contention was that we Irish were well capable of revolting against “repression” whenever we wanted to and that the society of the 20s to 50s was therefore a reflection of what people actually wanted… in the way that the British first threw out Churchill in 1945, established the Labour welfare state… and then threw out Labour and put the Conservatives back into power until 1964. Repression??? An exact reflection of the will of the people, more like!

    He died in 1995 but was even by then fairly disillusioned with the way he saw Ireland going, which he characterised as a basic lack of confidence and self-respect in the sense of a new “cringing” before our supposed awfulness and backwardness i.e a denial of our real culture. He saw this as an insult to his generation and that of his parents who had actually built the country – both pre-and-post 1922. While he remained an IT reader to the end his snorts of derision and scathing comments at its more pretentious effusions were a joy (he had a very Dublin caustic wit). I do wonder what he would make of the situation now!

  5. Thank you, Jaykay. My paternal grandfather worked as a labourer in Guinness’s brewery though neither my late father or I ever touched its product! Many’s the time I walked with my mother by Jameson’s distillery on our way into town. I wondered if the Capuchin friars next door to it were ever inebriated by the powerful smell that came from it and could knock you sideways!

    The late Paddie Crosbie, who was a classmate of my father in North Brunswick St CBS, ‘Brunner’, called his autobiography ‘Your Dinner’s Poured Out’. He and my father were born five years before yours. Paddy gave a humorous description of growing up in the north side of Dublin, specifically around the Smithfield / Queen Street / North King Street area, that showed that life there wasn’t entirely grim, even though there was very real poverty. Part of my enjoyment in reading the book was that it was by a north sider and about the north side, since the ‘real Dublin’ is usually associated with the Liberties on the south side. The city, of course, began in that area.

    Paddy Crosbie’s parish church, and that of my mother for most of her life before she married, was Arran Quay. St Paul’s, the parish church was the first, I think, to be built in Dublin after Catholic emancipation. Many Italian marble workers came to Ireland at that time when churches were being built. They were followed later by the ‘ice-cream men’ and the fish-and-chip people, who gave us the ‘wan-‘n’-wan’ from, it is said, an Italian granny in one of the early chippers whose vocabulary with customers was limited to ‘uno e uno’.

    There’s an interesting article on the Italian-Irish, most of them in Dublin, here: . I like the quotation there from Vincent Caprani, a very well known Dubliner: ‘The Irish, after all, are only Italians who don’t mind the rain’.

    If you really want to know what rain is come to the Philippines!

    If this is a bit scattered I can quote from Archbishop McQuaid’s letter above in my favour: ‘No element of our life, religious or social, was missing in that union of the Faith’.

  6. I still have great memories of Cardinal Agagaginian coming to Mourne Road, Drimnagh, to celebrate Mass. The roads were all decorated with bunting. We all felt so honoured. These were very different times as I was reminded when I visited my old parish church during the Eucharistic Congress 2012. Mind you when I visited Inchicore Oblate Church on the Monday of the Congress the Indian Cardinal of the Malabar Rite and the massive decorations organised by Fr O’Connor OMI PP reminded me of Drimnagh fifty years earlier.

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