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Gold-robed Vatican holy men are exactly what we need right now...

WHAT kind of monster do people think I am? The mere mention of writing about the Eucharistic Congress and everyone automatically assumes that this column would dare to make it the object of fun or ridicule.

This is the same Eucharistic Congress that, last time it visited our shores, saw one million believers swarm the city, more than 2,000 of whom fainted -- fact -- and many hundreds more who had to be treated for hysteria.

And all this decades before the Beatles or Take That.

The same event saw more than 5,000 of the one million sleep rough out in the open in Dublin, that had our entire city from Phoenix Park to the centre wired for sound and turned into what was, in effect, the capital's first giant open-air concert.

A vast banner that year graced the capital, on which was proclaimed the phrase 'God bless our Lord'. And this was the same Eucharistic Congress that gave rise to the first Holy Hour, designated by trade unions, which demanded a time of contemplation halfway through the day.

(Hey, once the whole thing was over, they could hardly go back now, could they?)

Why would anyone assume that the return visit of gold-robed Vatican holy men is not something our country needs eight decades on, in the 21st century?

Or that the €11.8m cost to be coughed up -- much of it by loyal parishioners -- is not worth every penny, just as the very last survivors of the nun-run slave camps that once dotted Ireland suffer their last years of ill-health?

Is this Congress thing something to be scoffed at?

The fact is that there was never a better time to host in luxury the emissaries of Rome, albeit before a flock that has shrunk to a tenth of the one million who swarmed the capital last time around.

Sure, we've barely enough money to educate our own children properly, or to look after our sick and our elderly with a modicum of decency and respect.

But if Rome says we should pony up some of our hard-earned cash to reaffirm to their satisfaction our belief in the holy sacrament of Communion with the living embodiment of Christ himself in a wafer biscuit, who are we to argue?

We've been screwed by the bankers, betrayed by successive governments and enslaved by Eurocrats, but by God, the one thing we have left is the Church.

That, and there's a new Glen Hansard album due out shortly, so really, any distraction ...