Sunday, 23 September 2007

National Catholic Congress 1929

The National Congress of 1929, from 13 - 17 September, marked the centenary of Catholic Emancipation. On Friday evening, Cardinal Bourne (above) solemnly received the members of the English and Welsh hierarchy (below) at the Cathedral, and led them to the High Altar for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Toleration was a key theme. The homilist at the Opening ceremony on Friday 13 September declared:

"One hundred years ago, our faith was subject to all sorts of disabilities, it was despised and hated, it had to keep itself secret in order to live. Now we parade it before all the world, and scarcely anyone raises so much as a murmur of protest! What a change in the temper of the people of this country!"
The Inaugural address was given at the Royal Albert Hall later that evening by Cardinal Bourne, and was sternly entitled 'Religion and Morality'. The Cardinal addressed very contemporary issues of education, and the lack of religious instruction in Council (state) schools.

"However much the teachers in Coucil schools may be today be praised for zeal, comptence, efficiency, the fact remains that parents are obliged by law to send their children to schools wherein it is forbidden to to give those parents any guarantee that their children will be taught that Jesus Christ is truly and really God, or that the teachers themselv accept that bedrock doctrine of Christianity. Logically and inevitably such a state of things must ultimately lead to a non-Christian England."

Cardinal Bourne saw this state of affairs as one of the consequences of the Reformation, when "Englishmen abandoned their centuries-old allegiance to the Apostolic See" and with it "belief in a divinely safeguarded revelation."

The moral situation in the country, likewise, was in a perilous state. The Cardinal concluded his address, linking his themes to the mission of the Catholic church in England and Wales on the anniversary of Catholic Emancipation:

"This, then, it appears to me, is the special mission of the Catholic Church in this country in the second century of recovered freedom which is now opening out before us, namely to strengthen and uphold that Christianity which is based upon and rooted in belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord, and to maintian the tradition of Christian moral life."

In addition to well-attended rallies each evening at the Royal Albert Hall, there were sectional meetings held by various societies devoted to Catholic education, social work and communications.

The remainder of the Congress seems to have been more specifically devoted to celebrations of the centenary Catholic Emancipation. On Saturday 14 September, there was a great parade of children to celebrate the anniversary. "Coming from all parts of London and its environs" records the Cathedral chronicle, "children walked in their thousands to the Cathedral grounds. Most of them were dressed in white, and no prettier sight could be imagined than the lawn at the side of the Cathedral presented as its green sward was gradually covered with a living sea of white." These children (above) from Poplar, in the east of London, look very dapper. I like especially the 'Long Live the Pope' banner!
The culminating point of the Congress was High Mass celebrated in the Cathedral grounds on Sunday morning, where there was made solemn thanksigiving to God for the Catholic Emancipation Act, and the progress made in the century since. The Archbishopp of Birmingham was the celebrant, with the national hierarchy in attendance. The Cathedral chornicle records, "By a system of loud-speakers, the voices of the celebrant and his minsters, and of the Archbishop of Liverpool, who was chosen to give expresssion to the sentiments which animated all present, were easily heard by all in the grounds, which were full but not uncomfortably crowded."


universal doctor said...

Can HE Bourne have realised how prophetic his words would be? How desperately we need to rediscover a sense of the roots of our faith and proclaim it loud and clear, so that "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow amd every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord".

Anonymous said...

I think it would be a great idea to have another Congress. Why not celebrate the freedom to practise and teach our faith. It may be a more effective way of encouraging politicians to value this freedom rather than harping on at them when they seek to curtail them. Also, it would give an example to other faiths to consider the value of religious freedom. Come on Monsignor, we can provide the bodies if you provide the framework.