The history of Eucharistic Congresses
Diocese and city
The history of Eucharistic Congresses
The idea of meetings of people dedicated to the prayer to the Eucharist began in Western Europe in the seventies of the last century. The reason for this was not only to enliven and widen eucharistic prayer but also to oppose the increasing tendencies towards laicisation which were definitely anti-Church and even anti-religion.
These tendencies were particularly evident in lay communities in France. Here it was that Emilie-Marie Tamisier (1834-1910) organized eucharistic pilgrimages in the sixties and seventies of the last century. She was supported by her confessors, especially Pere Pierre Eymard (1811-1858), later to be canonised, and bishop Gaston de Ségur (1820-1880) from Paris and also bishops Gaspard Mermillod from Freiburg in Switzerland and Victor-Joseph Doutreloux from Liθge in Belgium.
Bishop de Ségur organised a list of miraculous places of Eucharistic worship in
France, which greatly encouraged pilgrims to go there. The great
turning point was the pilgrimages from Lille to Douai (1874) as
well as those to Avignon (1876) and Favernay (1878) being the
unofficial eucharistic congresses.
The first person to propose the organization of an official eucharistic congress was mlle. Tamisier. Her intention was not only to increase the pilgrimage movement to places of eucharistic devotion but also to link it with conferences and in this way be develop it into an international religious and educational meeting of people. She wanted, to enliven this way the devotion to the Eucharist, to extend it and so oppose the process of laicisation and in this way rouse a feeling of strength and pride in confessing one's faith.
She presented her idea first to St. Pierre Eymard, who was a great enthusiast of eucharistic congress. In 1856 in Paris he founded the order of priests of the Blessed Sacrament. He had, therefore, a great understanding of these kind of meetings, although he did not himself live to see the realization of this idea. On 27th April 1879, mlle. Tamisier's idea was supported by Pope Leo XIII, who issued a papal bull with this aim in mind. However, the road to the fulfillment of this idea was still long. It appeared that at first neither in France nor in Belgium was it possible to organize eucharistic meetings due to the liberal and anti-Catholic thinking in those countries. There also remained countries, which were considered as venues for congress, especially Holland, but they showed little interest. When it seemed that the plans would have to be completely abandoned or at least considered at a later date the situation in France changed. Two industrialists from Lille, Philibert Vrau and his cousin Feron Vrau with Baron de Damas, who joined them later, showed an interest in this idea. They decided to finance it and so
the 1st International Eucharistic Congresswas organised. It took place on 28th 30th June 1881 in Lille having obtained Pope Leo XIII's agreement and acceptance, with a logo The Social Kingdom of Christ. Over eight thousand people took part, including three hundred and sixty-three delegates from France, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Greece, Spain, Holland, Switzerland and Mexico. The debates were chaired by the auxiliary bishop of Cambrai, Henri Monnier. During this first, historical meeting of worshippers of Christ in the Eucharist were several seminars in three groups: adoration and penance, worship and the external part, information. In the lectures, discussions and also in sermons, the necessity of searching for ways of returning the laws of God to their proper place in public and social life. At the close of the congress, the participants organized a committee preparing future International Eucharistic Congress, whose chairman was bishop A. de la Bouillerie, and two lay representatives, Gonte de Nicolay and J. de Beneque.
The second Congress took place in Avignon from l3th to l7th September 1882 and its logo was Christianize life through the Eucharist. Its chairman was archbishop F. E. Hasley. The third Congress was in Liθge from 5th l0th June 1883, chaired by archbishop A. Duquesnay, the Metropolitan of Cambrai, and discussions were about the ways in which the Church reacts towards the developing laicisation of western countries. Here was organized a permanent I.E.C. committee, which was chaired by Cardinal Victor Auguste Dechamps from Malines, Belgium. It was also the first congress, organized outside France. The next one took place in Fribourg, Switzerland (9th l3th September 1885), whose bishop, already mentioned Gaspard Mermillod, took the place of bishop de la Bouillerie after his death, as the chairman of the permanent committee of I.E.C.
In the years 1881 1902, that is during the pontificate of Leo XIII, there were 14 congresses. They took place on average every year, then every two or three years. With time they became less frequent and then started to move outside Europe. In 1893 there was a Congress in Jerusalem and one in 1910 in Montreal.
The congresses become stronger in the consciousness and life of Catholics and also in the local society where they met with difficulty at times. For example, during the l8th Eucharistic Congress in London (8th l3th September 1908) the British authorities did not allow a Eucharistic procession with the Blessed Sacrament to take place so it took place without the Blessed Sacrament but with an enormous number of people taking part: over 25,000 adults and almost 20,000 children, with 7 cardinals, 90 bishops and nearly 1000 priests.
The first Congress with Eastern rite Catholics took place in Jerusalem from l4th 2lst May 1908. Amongst others were Catholics of the Armenian rite. It was also the first time that an official papal delegate took part.
Another interesting fact is that the first pope to take part and to chair a was St. Pius X in 1905 and this the sixteenth Congress took place in Rome from 1st to 4th June. During the 2lst Congress in Montreal (7th 11th September 1910) almost 30,000 children had their First Holy Communion. At the 23rd Congress in Vienna from l2th l5th September 1912 was promoted by Emperor Frank Josef I. The Congress then celebrated independently from its religious significance the anniversary of the victory at Vienna. To emphasize the contribution of Poland in that victory, they formed a separate and large section, which had discussions in the Church of St. Michael.
Congresses were often linked with anniversaries or other events special to Christians and in particular to Catholics of the country in which they took place. This was so at the 30th Congress which took place in Carthage, Tunis and was to commemorated the 1500th anniversary of t he death of St. Augustine. Similarly, the next congress was in Dublin from 2lst 26th June 1932 and commemorated the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Earlier, the Congress from 6th 9th September 1928 in Sydney, Australia had as its logo Mary and the Eucharist.
Most of the congresses took place during the time of Pope Leo XIII and there were fourteen of them, then during the time of Pope Pius X, known as the Pope of the Eucharist there were eleven and during Pope Pius XI time nine. During the pontificate of Pope John XXIII only one congress was organized and this was the 37th. It took place in Munich on 3lst July 7th September 1960 but it was from then on that the tradition of organizing Eucharistic Congresses on a regular basis of every four or five years continued.
The last Congress before the War was in Budapest, Hungary, the 34th in succession from 25th 30th May 1938 and the first one after the War was in Barcelona, Spain from 27th May 1st June 1952. In the capital of Hungary, the logo was Eucharist the bond of Love and the papal legate was then Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who was elected Pope Pius XII not quite a year later. Over 100,000 people came from all aver the world to this Congress. There were 15 cardinals, among them Cardinal Augustyn Hlond and 330 bishops (of which 14 came from our country). The next Congress was to be held in 1940 in Nice but World War II prevented this. In Barcelona, for the first time the main event was not the procession but Holy Mass as the bloodless Eucharistic sacrifice. There was a procession at the close at which General Francisco Franco entrusted his country to the Eucharistic Christ.
Seoul, 1989Some of the debates at the were chaired by the pope; for example, Pope Paul VI (in Bombay in 1961 and Bogota in 1968) and John Paul II (Nairobi in 1985, Seoul in 1989 and Seville in 1993). The 45th International Eucharistic Congress took place in Seville from 7th l3th June 1993 and the logo was Christ Light of people Eucharist and evangelisation. The Pope then announced Wroclaw as the venue for the next Eucharistic Congress.
Eucharistic Congress are organised by the Papal Committee for Eucharistic Congresses. It was established by priests and laity and confirmed by Pope Leo XIII on 27th April 1879. The name of the Committee was given by apostolic brief issued by Pope John Paul II on 11th February 1986. It has been chaired since 3rd January 1991 by the Canadian, Cardinal Edouard Gagnon.
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© 1996 Kuria Metropolitalna Wroclawska