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All roads lead to Church 'Olympics'

The 'spiritual Olympics' of the Catholic Church begins in Dublin tomorrow, attracting thousands of pilgrims from all around the world.

Final preparations are under way for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, which will begin with an open-air Mass for 25,000 people.

Some 230 cardinals and bishops and 12,000 priests and deacons will attend events in Dublin throughout the week of celebration. Organisers have described Congress as an international gathering of people, with it being held in a different country every four years.

"It is a momentous occasion, it is our spiritual Olympics," said a spokeswoman.

The RDS has been transformed into a eucharistic village for the eight-day festival of faith and culture, which will feature 223 keynote speakers and 160 workshops featuring talks, addresses, group reflections, meetings, concerts and plays.

Some 25,000 pilgrims are expected every day, with 7,000 visitors due from more than 120 different countries.


Highlights include a procession which will be held on Wednesday evening, with more than 80,000 people expected at the Final Mass, Statio Orbis, at Croke Park Stadium on June 17. The last time the event was held in Ireland was in 1932 when the Church held a firm grasp over the Irish people. Tens of thousands of people then packed the Phoenix Park for the final public Mass.

The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse plans to stage a "dignified" protest outside the RDS tomorrow to highlight its disgust at Cardinal Sean Brady's refusal to step down over the Father Brendan Smyth scandal.