The 31st International Eucharistic Congress and the Newry Cave
In Church Street, Newry, a marble statue of Christ carved in rock quarried from the town of Carrara in the province of Massa and Carrara in Luningiana, the northernmost tip of modern Tuscany, Italy, stands in a Newry’s finest granite arch.
Known locally as the Church Street Grotto, we take a look back at the events in Newry and Dublin that inspired locals to build the holy shrine three years after a final public mass in Dublin attended by a quarter of the population. Irish.
EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS IN NEWRY
On Monday May 23, 1932, Newry City Council authorized the erection of arches at the Monaghan Street and Bridge Street bridges, for celebrations and a procession in connection with the Eucharistic Congress. The council also granted permission to fly the Eucharistic flag over Newry town hall, but was ignored amid local controversies over the flags.
The procession itself was held in Newry on Sunday June 5th with a report in the ‘Derry Journal’:
“One of the largest and most impressive religious processions seen in Newry for several years took place on Sunday as part of the Eucharistic Congress.
The procession, which included priests from all parts of the Diocese of Dromore, members of the Holy Family, women’s associations and schoolchildren, marched through eight depths, starting from the cathedral and numbering several thousand.
At the Dominican Church ‘Queen Street’, the Benedictine was donated by its most Reverend Lordship Dr. Mulhern, and the processionists then set out through Bridge Street to Abbey Yard, where the Benedictine was again passed on by the ‘bishop.
Hymns were sung by processionaries along the route, which was lavishly adorned with streamers and flags, while two arches spanned Monaghan Street and Dublin’s bridges. The procession was watched by a large and interested crowd from various points of view and the ships in Albert Basin were decorated in honor of the occasion. ‘
DUBLIN EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS
The closing ceremony of the 31st International Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin in June 1932, when Ireland’s then numbered 3,171,697 Catholics, chosen this year to coincide with the 1,500th anniversary of the arrival of Saint Patrick.
Dublin was decorated with banners, streamers, garlands and replicas of round towers with seven liners moored in the harbor basins and along “Sir John Rogerson’s Quay”. The ships acted as floating hotels and could accommodate 130 to 1,500 people each.
The Blue Hussars, a ceremonial cavalry unit of the Irish Army formed to escort the President of Ireland on state occasions, first appeared in public as the guard of honor of the papal legate representing Pope Pius XI.
The final public mass of the Congress was held on June 26 in Phoenix Park with around 25% of the Irish population.
Then four processions left the park for O’Connell Street where about 500,000 people gathered on O’Connell Bridge for the final blessing given by the papal legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Laurie.
The “Democratic Dundalk” described the event:
“Here, men and women are proud to bear witness to their Faith: proud to be the sons and daughters of dead and missing Catholics who kept the flame alive in the bad days of persecution and plunder. The men and women of old, from the heights of heaven conquered by their heroic piety, must have contemplated this glorious scene with serene happiness and blessing.
NEWRY LATER SANCTUARY
It would be three years after the Eucharistic Congress before a shrine was erected in Newry in commemoration of the occasion and not in 1932, which many of us might be forgiven for thinking. Today’s display and inscription in the cave reads: ‘Christ the King’ – ‘To commemorate the Eucharistic Congress of 1932.’
In the Catholic Standard of November 1, 1935, it is written:
“Newry Shrine Erected in Commemoration of the Eucharistic Congress of 1932” – A statue of Christ the King, erected in commemoration of the Eucharistic Congress of 1932, at “Pound Street” Newry, near Monk’s Hill. It was unveiled and blessed last Sunday (October 27, 1935) by His Excellency the Bishop of Dromore, Mgr Dr. Mulhern. The sanctuary, which is on the site donated by Mrs. Magennis, priory, is in Newry granite, and the statue itself is in Carrara marble. ‘
In October 2003, Church Street Cave once again made headlines when The Newry Reporter announced the unveiling of a new plaque with former Council Mayor Jack Patterson officiating at the ceremony.
The plaque was in memory of Mary Ellen Lundy who attended the cave during her lifetime and those present at the ceremony were the sisters of Mary Ellen, Margaret Hollywood and Bridie Weir, as well as Father Terence Rafferty and Father Andrew McMahon .