The Nineteenth Eucharistic Congress was held in London in September 1908. In itself a remarkable event, it was all the more so for being held in Edwardian London, so close to the centre of Government and Established Church.
The Papal Legate, Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, was the first Legate to set foot on English soil since Cardinal Pole 350 years earlier. In his opening address he said "We meet in a most hospitable country, upon which through the ages God has heaped the most signal blessings; which deserved to be honoured by the mouth of a Roman Pontiff of great name with the title of a land of Angels rather than Angles. And if, in later days, deplorable differences arose, these have since been softened by an age which has learned to set greater store by peace. And now, for the first time in many centuries, the gates of England are open to a cardinal who is also a Papal legate. O truly wonderful ways of divine providence which are so sweetly bringing us together in this city!"
[Note: He was the first Legate to visit since Cardinal Pole, but not the first Cardinal. I believe that Cardinal Consalvi visited London at the time of the Napoleonic wars]
In his reply, Cardinal Bourne said, "Encouraged by your gracious words, my Lord Cardinal, and by the thought of the Shepherd of all the Flock, of whose mind those words are indeed the faithful echo, we enter on the prayers and labours of this Congress."
Huge crowds gathered inside and outside the Cathedral (note, above, the tympanum mosaic not yet in place), where Benediction was given from the balcony. It was a period of intense activity, of many and magnificent religious services, and learned adresses. The Congress also brought a measure of controversy, as Catholic piety fell foul of the narrow privisions of the Catholic Emancipation Act - of which more in future postings about this event.