Spectacular ceremonies in Sydney
By JOSEPH CIZZIO: Sydney
AAUSTRALIA, with a population approximately 13'one-quarter Catholic, is celebra ting a National Eucharistic Congress which is eclipsing every other religious demonstration in the history of the country.
Sydney has become a city of prayer with nearly 500,000 visitors taking part in a gigantic expression of faith enhanced by illuminations and other spectacular displays.
Ceremonies arc taking place in the city and on the foreshores of its harbour — the most beautiful in the world which is bathed in brilliant sunsh ine,
The Governor and civic authorities have responded magnificently to requests made by the organising genius of the congress, Mgr. W. P. Clark, by virtually offering the freedom of the city for religious demonstrations and its hospitality to congress visitors.
The . congress commemorates the 150th anniversary of the laroclamalion of Governor King giving permission to • a Catholic priest to celebrate Mass in Sydney.
It also celebrates the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Australian Holy Name Society as a diocesan unit and the 25th anniversary of the International Eucharistic Congress held in Sydney.
For the first time three Cardinals arc together on Australian soil. Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, is presiding as Papal Legate, and with him are Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, and Gregory Peter XV Cardinal Agagianian. the Armenian Patriarch.
In the streets
Practically the entire Hierarchy of Australia, New Zealand and the New Guinea Solomons area have assembled in Sydney, ' England is represented by Bishop Heenan of Leeds, and prelates representing other countries include Archbishop Fernandes and Bishop Pothacamury from India, Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin, Archbishop O'Hara from the United States. and a delegation representing the Hierarchy of the Philippines.
Distinguished women visitors who are presenting papers on the theme of the congress—Christian Charity— include Mrs. H. B. Swan, national president of the Catholic Women's League in England and Wales, Mrs. Henry Mannix, of New York. vicepresident of the World Union of Catholic Women. and Miss Catherine Schaffer, of New York.
The congress was solemnly and brilliantly opened on Sunday evening by Cardinal Gilroy in St. Mary's Cathedral. The cathedral was aglow with lights. Over the main entrance is a huge replica of the congress badge —St. John reclining on the bosom of Our Lord at the Last Supper—between two crosses. all in neon tubes. Another neon replica of the badge is over the western entrance of the cathedral, On Monday. Propaganda Day, newspapers, radio stations and cinemas publicised the congress. Priests at vantage points in many parts of city streets preached the congress message all day long.
The series of congress lectures is considered to he the most important ever arranged in Australia. They are being given in the Town Hall, the University of Sydney and other centres. On Monday Bishop Heenan spoke on "Christian Charity in Industrial Life" at a general session in the Town Hall, with Bishop Young presiding.
An immense festival altar has been erected on the Sydney Showground, where a citizens' demonstration takes place on Wednesday. There. in tableau and song, the story will be told of what Catholicism has contributed to the welfare of the country.
Perhaps the most stirring event will be Men's Night at the Showground. when hundreds of thousands will assemble to renew their baptismal vows and sing "Holy God. We Praise Thy Name" and "Faith of Our Fathers" in a mighty surge of voices.
The congress will culminate on Sunday with a long procession moving through the principal streets of the city. It will include many of Australia's distinguished citizens. Twelve groups of New Australians— recent immigrants — will march in their national costumes.
For the first time in Australia nuns will march in a public procession.
One is tempted to say that Australia's National Eucharistic Congress represents a crowning triumph as great as may be found in the annals of Christendom. It culminates magnificent years of zeal and uncompromising effort for the Faith which began when Protestantism had a virtual monopoly in religion and education. It marks an episode in a story of the development of much that is good in the national temperament. It concerns an apostolic type of Catholicism.
The principal event which the congress commemorates — the 150th anniversary of the . proclamation of Governor King giving permission to a priest to celebrate Mass—was hut a temporary respite in a struggle for justice by Catholics.
The seeds of the Reformation were transplanted to Australia soon after the first settlers arrived. The right of Australia's early priests to minister to their flocks was considered a privilege. The right to spread the Faith by direct means was forbidden. Floggings and worse punishments were meted out to convicts who refused to attend Church of England services.
Ten years after the founding of Australia as a colony its Catholic population suddenly increased as a result of many Irish rebels who took part in the 1798 uprising, being sent as convicts to New South Wales. They added to the 800 or so Catholics already in the Colony.
Three priests were among the Irish convicts. Governor King granted one of them, Fr. James Dixon, the right to celebrate Mass for the benefit of Catholic prisoners,
Governor King's proclamation was signed and sealed at Government House. Sydney. on April 19. 1803, and was directed "-to His maies(N.s Justices Assigned to keep the Peace and to all others His Majesty's SIMjects whom it may concern." It runs as follows: "Whereas 1 have judged it Expedient and Advisable in Consequence of a Communication from His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies and War Department. in Grant unto the Reverend Mr. Dixon a Conditional Emancipation to enable him to Exercise his Clerical Functions as a Roman Catholic Priest, which he has qualified himself for by the Regular and Exemplary Conduct he has manifested, since his residence in this Colony. and his having taken the Oath of Allegiance. Abjuration and Declaration prescribed by Law—
"Which permission shall remain hi full force and effect as long as the said Reverend Mr. Dixon (and no other Priest) shall strictly adhere to the Rules and Regulations which he has this day bound himself by Oath to observe, as well as all other Regulations which may hereafter be made thereon by His Majesty's Governor of this Territory for the time being Arid in Case of any deviation therefrom by the said Reverend Mr. Dixon or any of his Congregation, it will remain with the Governor of this Territory to suspend such Religious Assemblies. and to deal with the offenders according to Law— God save the King."
Long struggle This permission was revoked the following year by Governor King who, perturbed at the number of Irish in the colony, and alarmed at insurrections, decided to put them under stricter surveillance and forced them to attend Protestant services.
But thousands of Irish convicts continued to be sent to Australia and they and their descendants put the Faith on a much higher numerical level in this country, in proportion to population, than it was in England, By their fervour and tenacity they proved a triumphant setback to those who hoped to exclude Catholicism from Australia, The struggle was not easy. For many years there was no priest, no Catholic church and no school. When a priest defied authority by remaining in Sydney he was arbitrarily deported.
But such injustices were, perhaps, blessings in disguise. They have developed a spirit which is anathema of complacency. In this country, once called the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost, is to he found the bastion of Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere. The National Eucharistic Congress amply demonstrates it.