NEXT year Ireland is hosting a eucharistic congress and in preparation for that event a special eucharistic bell will be on a pilgrimage passing through the diosceses of Ireland. This will be an opportunity for all Christians to renew their Christian faith.
On St Patrick’s Day 17th March, Cardinal Séan Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, launched the pilgrimage of the International Eucharistic Congress Bell in Armagh.
In his homily during the service at the launch and the annointing of the icon of the Christ Pantocrator, the Cardinal said, “I am conscious that some commentators have said it is not a good time for Ireland to have a Eucharistic Congress …
“My hope and prayer is that as the journey to the Eucharistic Congress begins we will have confidence in ourselves and all that is best in our Church and in our country.
“I also hope that people from the other Christian Churches will also hear the call of the Bell and join us in remembering the Biblical faith and evangelical zeal of Patrick that we share as sisters and brothers in the one Lord.
“For those who, for whatever reason, have grown distant from the Church and from the practise of their faith in recent years, the visit of the Bell will be an opportunity to rediscover the peace and love that Christ can bring to our lives.”
“The special ecumenical congress bell is now travelling round the whole of Ireland calling people to that renewal of their Christian lives.”
The bell first travelled to the Parish of Dromore from Armagh and then arrived in Saul to Downpatrick in the Dioscese of Down and Connor.
The Cardinal added, “The Annals of Ulster record a long association between Saint Patrick and sacred bells. The Annals mention in particular the ‘Bell of the Testament’. This was said to be one of the treasures buried with Saint Patrick. It is said to have been later willed to Saint Colmcille who gave the Bell to the Church in Armagh. So it is very fitting that the Bell of the Congress should start its journey here in Armagh. The tradition of Patrick also has it that he would leave a small hand bell in every new Church he consecrated as a Bishop…
“My hope is that the journey of this bell will bring about a re-awakening of faith in each of our parishes. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, my hope is that it will ‘inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland…’ The bell is not a megaphone for attention above all the other noises in our lives. It is not even a special ring tone designed to stand out from the crowd. It is a simple bell that tolls softly. It invites each one of us to quietly think again about the faith that brought courage, peace and hope to so many generations of Irish people at home and across the world.”
Canon Sean Rogan at St Patrick’s Church in Downpatrick said, “The bell arrived in Downpatrick on Friday in the Down and Connor Dioscese. Prior to that it had been hosted in the Parish of Saul before being transfered to Downpatrick on the Friday to St Patrick’s Church when a special service was held in the church to receive it.
“In a gesture of ecunemical friendship, the bell was taken on Saturday to Down Cathedral in a procession through Downpatrick and welcomed close to the site of St Patrick’s resting place. There was a short prayer service held by Dean Henry Hull and it will be held there prior to its transfer to the Parish of Drumbo at Carryduff.
“The bell will then move to St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast.”
The congress occurs only every 70 years or so and is a very special occasion in the Catholic Church in Ireland. It has already begun to foster a strong ecumenical spirit on its travels through Ireland.