Week of teachings and activities will bring faithful in their droves
IT MAY be an entirely different religious landscape to when it was last held here 80 years ago, but hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are still expected to participate in the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which begins in Dublin today and will run until next Sunday.
The Opening Liturgy takes place this afternoon at 1pm and runs until 4.45pm at the RDS in Dublin. As part of the opening ceremony, which is presented by Bryan Dobson and TG4's Roisin Ni Thomain, a Healing Stone will be unveiled, acknowledging the devastating abuse of children at the hands of some members of the clergy.
While the RDS is the centre of all IEC2012 activity for the entire week, The Statio Orbis, which brings proceedings to a close on June 17, is being held in Croke Park. It is estimated that 80,000 people will attend the closing Mass, which will include a video message from Pope Benedict XVI speaking from the Vatican and which will be presented by Joe Duffy and Eileen Dunne.
Organisers are expecting more than 17,000 visitors from 120 countries to arrive in Dublin for the Congress. Each day's events are expected to attract 25,000 people. Organisers are also anticipating 40 international cardinals and 360 international bishops, including the Papal Legate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. It will be Ireland's largest religious celebration since Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979.
The chosen theme for the IEC2012 is 'The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another'. There is a varied schedule of events all week; however, most days will include three key elements: The Catechesis, which is a 'teaching' moment, usually presented by a bishop, reflecting on the theme of the day; The Testimony, which will offer words of encouragement and inspiration from a lay-person; and a Celebration of the Eucharist, presided over by a bishop.
There are also 160 workshops organised and over 100 speakers, both Irish and international, lay, religious and clerical.
The IEC2012 is also running separate youth and children's programmes.
Anyone can attend the congress, although it is advised that people younger than 16 should be accompanied by an adult. The online registration deadline for congress events has passed; however, bookings will be available on-site at the RDS for the entire week.
The IEC2012 is estimated to have cost almost €12m. The money has mostly been raised by church collections in Ireland and a national fundraising committee, which was set up by the Bishops' Conference in Ireland. It is hoped that revenue generated from ticket sales will make up the remainder.
A seven-day full programme ticket costs €105, three days costs €70 and a one-day programme costs €35. Tickets for the final ceremony cost €10, and are very close to selling out. RTE will be covering both the opening and final ceremonies on radio, television and online.
There will be no parking in the RDS during the week of the congress. It is recommended that people use public transport. Buses 4, 7, 8, 18, 27X, 45 and 120 all stop on the Merrion Road. Also, Sandymount Dart station is close to the RDS.
A traffic management plan will be put in place, during and after Statio Orbis in Croke Park on Sunday, June 17. The event will begin at 1pm and will end by approximately 5.30pm. Many roads around the stadium will be closed including the North Circular Rd, Belvedere Rd and North Great Charles St. The Ballybough Road will also be closed post-event, from Clonliffe House to the junction of North Circular Road/Summerhill. There will be diversions in place in other areas.
For IEC2012, organisers are embracing digital advances, offering a free iPhone and iPad app designed exclusively for congress pilgrims. The event also has its own regularly updated Facebook page and blog. Furthermore, the International Theology Symposium which drew to a close yesterday was streamed live on the internet.
Two thousand volunteers signed up to work at the IEC2012. Some volunteers will be meeting and greeting pilgrims and clergymen on arrival at Dublin airport; others will be welcoming visitors at the IEC2012 host churches throughout Dublin city. Some volunteers will be working alongside professionals as security.
A spokesperson for the IEC2012 said they would be foolish not to expect some level of protest against the event and what it stands for, but once the protests are undertaken peacefully, they said, there will be no need for garda intervention.