Page 16, 20th May 1938

20th May 1938
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THE International Eucharistic Congress at Metz took place in 1907, when I accompanied Mgr. Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, not yet a Cardinal.

Cardinal Bourne was given hospitality by a distinguished French lady who, in sign of mourning and disgust, had kept her "hotel" shut ever since 1870; but seized the opportunity of this international gathering to show her delight at Metz being chosen by opening up everything to do honour to God and His creatures at such an event arranged for His glory. Which manner of doing deuil reminds me of the umbrella shop in Rome that in my student days there, and long afterwards, kept half the emporium in darkness by leaving up. half the shutters in sign of displeasure att.' the events of " XX Settembre," even as the Cardinals suffered themselves to be drawn by funeral horses through the streets of Rome with the same end in view. Visiting Cardinals, however, ventured to disport themselves with horses of a slightly less sombre hue, till the advent of motors, when my Cardinal, much to the annoyance and eyebrow-raising of the oId school, presumed to make his way to the Vatican in a motor car on the day he was made a Cardinal. It was the first time anyone had so dared.

But to return to my muttons. All went well at the Congress. though there was much heartburning among the French when a telegram of loyalty and respect was despatched to the Kaiser. I forget the answer, if any.

On the last day great crowds as usual attended the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament. and at certain points the faithful had difficulty in keeping back.


Well, then came our own epoch-making Congress of Westminster.

It may not be generally known that no Bishop would presume to have the CongreSs in his diocese before ascertaining the wishes and parere of the Holy See, seeing that it is an international ecclesiastical affair. Cardinal Merry del Val was doubtful about the suitability of London and only consented provided that it did not " sfigurare " (cut a bag figure) fru gli altri congressi eucharistici.

As a matter of fact ours was the first really big Congress, and it set the pace for all those that succeeded it. Never in history had a hundred Bishops and eleven Cardinals attended.

The Making of the Congress

The prohibition of carrying the Host in the procession is an old story, but I don's know if it has ever been fully realised that this prohibition was the making of the Congress, and it would never have been such an astounding success and of such a worldwide interest had Asquith not interfered and yielded to the enemies of the Eucharist.

Right up to the Government's interference interest in the whole affair was

small, not only among outsiders, but among our own Catholics, especially the higher " classes and nobility. From that moment, they all woke up, and applications for membership and for scats in the Cathedral and Albert Hall poured in in their hundreds. The success of the Eucharistic Congress was assured. Quare frentecererni

genies. Mr. Asquith begged the Arch bishop to call the procession off. His Grace refused to do so unless the Prime Minister, as head of His Majesty's Government formally and publicly requested him to do so; for the Archbishop maintained there was nothing illegal in the proposed programme. Asquith, who in the first instance had tried to get Lord Ripon to be the catspaw, finally acceded to the Archbishop's conditions and made the formal request. I always felt that Asquith

blundered in doing this. Personally, I should have countered the Archbishop's play by answering: " Very well, do what you like, have the procession and take the consequences," which indeed would have been terrible, and the whole responsibility would have been on the Archbishop's shoulders.

No one but the Cardinal, Bishop Butt, Abbot Bergh, the Duke of Norfolk and myself knew of the Government's interference. It came as a great surprise to the ten thousand men in the Albert Hall that night,

when indignation ran very high. The then Archbishop of Glasgow poured oil on the troubled waters with extraordinary tact and wit.

Eventually the procession toOk place, consisting merely of a great cortege; and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given to the enormous crowds below from the balcony of the Cathedral, leading the Editor of the Westminster Gazette to write that, true, the Archbishop of Westminster had observed the letter of the law, but that in the spirit he could not have contravened more completely than he had done by this impressive finale. The next morning The Times, in its leading article, observed that never in the history of England had a tussle between a Prime Minister and an Archbishop redounded so completely to the advantage of the latter. It was later revealed that had our Archbishop insisted, the Government intended to line the whole route with soldiers. The Government

would never have forgiven His Grace for forcing them to such extremes.

Cardinal Bourne was never very keen about having the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament at all, and even before the outcry would not allow the committee to advertise it on the posters. He only yielded to our wishes when we were able to assure him that the whole route would be lined by devout. worshipping, adoring Catholics; and that is why we selected a short route and one well out of the way of any great traffic. His Grace considered a crowd of curious even though respectful non-Catho

lics not suitable or good enough. To expose the Blessed Sacrament was only justified, in his eyes, if the Exposition was to believers.

It may be interesting to recall that Howick Place was on the line of route, and

that the Army and Navy Stores would not allow us to turn their bridge there into a triumphal arch, for fear that their members might thereby be cornpromised! Anyhow, they had the expense of boarding up all the vulnerable spots, both sides of the road, for they evidently realised the size of the expected crowds.

Queen Alexandra

Poor Asquith had to bear the brunt of the whole blame. To him the King sent on all the sheaves of telegrams expressing opposition to our crowning ceremony. Which reminds me of some remarks by Queen Alexandra. She came once to a function at Dallis Hill Hospital, and seeing

a large crucifix on the wall, said : " Oh, I am glad to see that. I can never forget the painful impression made on me when I first came to England to see nothing but plain crones in our churches and houses. In my native Lutheran country we have the cross with the figure, as you have. And

have a full-size one in My own rooms at the Palace."

Her Majesty continued that she would so like to see our Cathedral, but that she had to be very careful on acconnt of the insensate bigotry that would at once criticise such a visit; adding that when we had the Congress, and when her husband attended with the whole of the Royal Family at the Requiem Mass at Spanish Place for the assassinated King of Portugal, the King was simply overwhelmed with telegrams. The Cardinal begged her to come, undertaking to close the Cathedral or do anything else to respect her privacy. Nothing more happened until one day Her Majesty turned up unannounced, with only the " Green Man," Mr. Crooke, to receive her at the door. He promptly telephoned to the Clergy House and got hold of Mgr. Brown to do the honours of the occasion.


The next Congress I attended was at Montreal in 1910. We set out in good time on the " Empress of Britain belonging to the Canadian Pacific, and crossed to Quebec with the Protestant Bishop of London, much to the consternation of the captain, who feared roost embarrassing situations. Needless to say, all was fair and amicable, and the captain's misgivings were quickly set at rest when he saw the two high dignitaries in most affable conversation before the vessel's departure. The Bishop's chaplain seemed anxious about " Mass," and I am afraid I misled him about the Ordo or Kalendar, much to Mgr. Joseph Butt's amusement.

The voyage was uneventful. Our first pied-a-terre was at the Archbishop of Quebec's palace in the. lovely old-fashioned city, so different from all the others we afterwards visited. The Archbishop of Westminster was taken in hand by the Catholic Extension Society, much to the consternation of the French party, one of whose members told me of their displeasure, for they feared the Archbishop would be exploited for the society's own ends. It should be realised that in those days the feeling between the Irish or English-speaking Catholics and the French ran very high.

One of the Montreal churches was used for the principal meetings, such as we had in the Albert Hall. Evidently the Canadians did not find this out of the ordinary at all. We had a great function orations that day, one from Cardinal Gibbons and the other in French from some great French bishop—I think it was Bishop Touchet of Orleans.

Archbishop Bourne's speech at the general meeting just referred to gave great offence, as the French-speaking Canadians regarded it as an attack on their language. Bourassa got up and made an outrageous reply, and I am sorry to say was not called to order by the Ordinary, Mgr. Bruchesi. I always regretted that Cardinal Bourne, who loved the French and upheld them always when, long before the War, people Were rather pro-German in England, did not make his speech .iiu French. This would have been a gr:aeflilqompliment and would have been better understood and received and would have allayed their fears and suspicions.

Next morning, I happened to be in the Bishops' Sacristy, wli6'6"qhey.':'were all getting robed for High.uMdsh,' and I overheard one Canadian bishop say to another : " That Archbishop of Westminster is either the bravest or the simplest man I have ever met!" He was, in fact, both, and this was by no means the last occasion when he proved it.


And now we come to Malta, which was unique, .seeing that the whole people, barring just the English forces, was Catholic, and therefore it was entirely a family affair, agreed to by all.. Talking of the soldiers, Tommy, who was kept to barracks during the Sunday procession, was very properly told that if he wished to look on from the barrack windows he must do so " at attention." Nothing could have been more correct.

My Archbishop and the Duke of Norfolk travelled to Malta by ship from Marseilles via Tunis, and so we returned. The Papal Legate was offered the Enchantress or some such R.N. vessel, but was irritated when the very British captain very courteously refused to embark other Italian prelates that His Eminence Cardinal Ferrata encountered "on the beach" at Syracuse and desired to bring along with himself and his own suite. The captain refused to go beyond his consigree. Cardinal Ferrata thought him a stupid, fussy stickler, but probably the worthy captain feared any unfortunate repercussions in England, where again the bigots were criticising our Government's courtesy in transporting the " Papal Mission," His Eminence was also annoyed (quite unjustifiably) because the Governor received him at tea at Government House dressed in a jacket! In Rome they 'wear evening dress at ceremonial occasions, even

in the morning. Poor Balfour once was very annoyed at having so to dress at 11 a.m. when he had an audience with the Pope.


Then the Cologne Congress. All I remember about that gathering is that the procession was late and long, and that two Irish Bishops, expected to dinner after wards, went to bed instead. We stayed with the British Consul, a German, by name Nussen, who told us many interesting stories of the journeys he had to arrange for Edward VII when that sovereign visited Carlsbad, and of the King's economies. Cardinal Vannutelli again graced this Congress as Papal Legate. than one. We stayed with Prince Kinsky, whose house had remained closed and in mourning ever since his wife's death. He was moved to open it up again for this great event.

The old Emperor Francis Joseph took a great personal interest in the Congress, and insisted on the greatest Alat being given to it. The gathering of numberless representatives of all the 'constituent races of the Austrian Empire, with their wonderful, picturesque dress and flags, was an unforgettable sight.

The great day of the procession came with torrents of rain; but the Emperor had given instructions that nothing was to be curtailed and that all should turn out in full regalia despite the downpour. Prince Kinsky told me that he alone stood to lose over £100 in the ruined uniforms of his coachmen and footmen and hangers on, for all the gold braid was exposed and

spoilt. During the procession the rain abated somewhat, especially at the final Benediction. The Blessed Sacrament was borne in a crystal coach, with the Emperor following on his knees in another gorgeous coach. i There was a' wonderilli reception inthe Palace, ,given by the Emperor, at which were present all the noble ladies and gentlemen of the Empire and all the higher visiting ecclesiastics and laymen of the

whole world present in Vienna. The duchesses and other ladies were lined up on one side of the Salon, and the bishops and prelates and the rest on the other, facing one another across the gangway down which the Emperor came. Much jewellery and glittering diamonds, etc., were in evidence as we gazed across. But one bishop, realising there was also a certain amount of glory and gorgeous apparel even on the clergy side, remarked to me that he thought there was just as much vanity our side as theirs!


Amsterdam followed in due course, and was a very encouraging sight. The committee had to borrow a large park for the procession, as religious demonstrations of this kind are illegal in the streets of the city. The procession was so long and fatiguing that the Cardinals took turns in carrying the Host. Cardinal Bourne was one of them. Cardinal van Rossum, himself a Dutchman, was the Legate.


The Dublin Congress was the last one I have assisted at, and was held in 1932. It was marvellously well organised, and the love and respect shown by the crowd to the Blessed Sacrament was remarkable, for silence, or prayer and singing, were noticeable even when the Host was not in sight. There were loudspeakers in the principal streets of the city which kept everyone au courant with what was going on elsewhere. The Protestants must have heard more

absence, while many of us learnt for the first time that blue, not green, is the true Irish colour. The Cardinal Legate seemed not in very good health, and was unable to sing the High Mass on Sunday, contrary to the usual custom.

The Pope spoke over the wireless, but owing to uncertainty as to the exact moment of speaking, and the noisy presence overhead of an Englislairteroplane, his voice did not come over at all

it was ,difficult to see the Host in the procession, as theCardinal was on the ground level. as is generally the case. In my humble opinion there-shbuid,be a sedia gestatoria, like the Pope uses for solemn

entries into St. Peter's, so that all might see and not only the privileged and prominent few. Vienna, of course, was perfect in this respect, even if there was room for criticism in regard to the Emperor using a carriage.

The Cardinal Legate to Dublin travelled through from Dover or Folkestone to Chester (en route for Holyhead) on a Sunday go a bit of line {Croydon to Willesden) never used for passenger traffic except on weekdays, and had a great reception at Addison Road.

Here I must put a full stop to my sketchy reminiscences, only hoping they may have served to interest those who have troubled to read them. I would conclude with the expression of a hope that we may one day have a Congress devoted exclusively to the object of showing that it is only the Mass that matters, to the exclusion of every other devotion.

Published by the NEW CATHOLIC HERALD, LTT)., at 57, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4. and printed in Great Britain by the RUCKS PREF PP ER MATT TT' TI

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