Address of the Irish Bishops to Cardinal Cullen at the Close of the Fourth Public Session of Vatican I


Out of a total of 744 bishops in attendance at the First Vatican Council (1869–70), some seventy were of Irish birth and about another 150 were of Irish descent. The author of the accepted definition on the highly controversial dogma of papal infallibility was the Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Paul Cullen — a staunch ultramontane and one of the most influential prelates in the history of the Irish Church. At the end of the Fourth Public Session, some of the Irish bishops presented the following address to the Cardinal:

To His Eminence Paul Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland, &c., &c.

May it please your Eminence — On this most memorable day in the history of the Vatican Council, We, the undersigned Archbishops and Bishops, representatives of the Irish race, respectfully approach your Eminence, and offer our heartfelt congratulations on your most able and successful vindication in the Council Hall of the rights of the Holy See, and of the tradition of the Irish Church concerning them.

Your Eminence truly represented on the occasion the faith and feelings of the Irish people, and we are proud of the manner in which you have testified to both.

+D. M’Gettigan, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland.
+P. Leahy, Archbishop of Cashel
+Charles Eyre, Archbishop of Anazarba, &c.
+W. Keane, Bishop of Cloyne.
+M. O’Hea, Bishop of Ross.
+F. Kelly, Bishop of Derry.
+P. Dorrian, Bishop of Down and Connor.
+John M’Evily, Bishop of Galway.
+L. Gillooly, Bishop of Elphin.
+George Butler, Bishop of Limerick.
+N. Power, Bishop, Administrator of Killaloe.
+James Donnelly, Bishop of Clogher.
+N. M’Cabe, Bishop of Ardagh.
+Thomas Nulty, Bishop of Meath.
+D. Murphy, Bishop of Hobart Town.
+J. A. Gould, Bishop of Melbourne.
+James Quinn, Bishop of Brisbane.
+S. Fennelly, Vicar Apostolic of Madras.
+E. O’Connell, Bishop of Grassvalley.
+John Strain, Vicar Apostolic, E.D., Scotland.
+John M’Donald, Vicar Apostolic, W.D., Scotland.
+J. Chadwick, Bishop of Hexham.
+E. Horan, Bishop of Kingston.
+T. O’Mahony, Bishop of Armidale
+P. Moran, Bishop of Dunedin.
+Thomas Grimley, Vicar Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa.
+John Cameron, Coadjutor Bishop of Arichat
+Thomas Power, Bishop of St. John’s.
+T. W. Croke, Bishop of Auckland.
+John Farrell, Bishop of Hamilton.
+L. B. Sheil, Bishop of Adelaide.

Cardinal Cullen gave the following reply:

My Lord Archbishops and Bishops, I thank you most warmly for your kind address, though it has not been in my power to perform anything in connection with the Vatican Council deserving of such a manifestation of your approval.

At the same time I must say that it was a great honour to have been allowed to take any part, however humble, in one of the greatest ecclesiastical assemblies that the world has ever witnessed, an assembly which will form so remarkable a feature in the history of our holy and beloved Father, Pius the Ninth, and will add so much lustre to the last years of a long reign, rivalling in its splendour and its wonderful events the Pontificates of his greatest and most illustrious predecessors.

All those who have been present at the Vatican Council must have been struck with the proofs which it afforded of the unity and Catholicity of our Church, and have admired the liberty with which every question was so eloquently and learnedly discussed, whilst all, though differing in opinion on other matters, were united in the profession of the one true faith. In progress of time the decisions of such a body will be the source of great blessings to the Church, condemning, as they do, so many forms of modern error, upholding the cause of justice and authority, defining the rights of religion, and, above all, banishing Gallicanism from the pale of the Church. This form of teaching, notwithstanding the name it bears, was never adopted by the great Church of France, but was violently forced into a sort of official existence by an ambitious King. Its tendencies always were to undermine the foundations of the Church, to divide the faithful of different countries into hostile camps, and to promote schisms and dissensions among those who should live together like brethren. Having been now solemnly condemned by a General Council, it is to be hoped that itself and its offshoots will soon be forgotten.

The definition of the Pope’s Infallibility, for which we all voted today, was hailed with enthusiasm by the multitudes assembled around the shrine of St. Peter, and tens of thousands of the faithful from every clime joined in sending forth hymns of thanksgiving to the Almighty for having visited and conferred a signal blessing on them. Every Catholic nation will repeat the same canticles of joy, and our own devoted flocks will be among the first and the most fervent in manifesting their feelings of delight.

To you, my lords, I am confident that the Irish people, over whom you preside, whether at home in the United Kingdom or in the distant colonies of the British empire, where so many new churches are springing up, will be most grateful for the zeal, devotedness, and learning with which you defended the ancient traditions of the Church of our Fathers, and for the unanimity with which you did honour to St. Peter, voting for the most glorious prerogative of his successors, the gift of Infallibility, which they enjoy, when teaching the Church, as Vicars of Jesus Christ. This doctrine was always held in Ireland from the days of our Apostle down to the Synod of Thurles, and every good Irish Catholic would be grievously scandalised were any one to assert that the Pope could teach heresy to the Church, or that the supreme Pastor could give poison instead of wholesome food to the flock of Christ.

I shall conclude by observing that when the last General Council was held, three hundred years ago, Ireland was in a sad state of depression. The country was laid waste, the population reduced to the lowest ebb, the clergy in exile or prison, and religion proscribed, Hence, during the greater part of the eighteen years which the Council of Trent lasted, no Irish bishops could be present at its deliberations. Thanks be to God, things are greatly changed. Ireland is now recovering from her past afflictions, and her people are founding churches and spreading religion over the world. The children of St. Patrick have been amply represented in the Vatican Council by a large array of prelates; and your flocks may well be proud of the high position which you held among the assembled bishops of all the nations of the earth!

May God in his mercy continue to watch over our poor country, now so intimately connected with the most distant regions of the earth!

May He strengthen the faith of our people wherever they are dispersed, and may He give them and their zealous and faithful pastors the grace always to adhere to the Rock of Peter, and to be the devoted children of his infallible successors!

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Posted on December 12, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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