Tuesday, March 31, 2009


EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS, GUAGUA PARISH. As a prelude to the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress, parishioners of Guagua Parish held their own eucharistic event, with their cura parocco, R. P. Cosme Bituin, who would be a speaker in the Pampanga section of the 33rd Congress. Dated 1936.

In 1937, the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress—billed as the greatest and most glorious spiritual event ever witnessed in the Orient—was held for the first time in Asia. It was a proud moment for the Filipino people when the Philippines, the only predominantly Catholic country in the Far East, was chosen as the venue for this world-renown gathering.

The idea of Eucharistic feast was conceived by a French woman, Emilie Tamisier, supported by the Bishop of Lille and a pious layman, Philip Vrau. These events were meant to inspire spiritual revival through a program of prayer, processions, religious assemblies, pontifical masses and other activities The original intent was to have a simple national religious affair, but the response was so enthusiastic, supported even by Pope Leo XII himself. And so, the First International Eucharistic Congress was held in the city of Lille, France in 1881, attended by an unprecedented 3,000 people.

The first editions of the Eucharistic Congress were held in Europe. In 1883, Ghent, Belgium hosted the event with 10,000 participants the world over. In 1893, the Congress was held in Jerusalem, the first to have a Papal Legate, Cardinal Gossens, in attendance. Rome was the fitting venue in 1905, and in 1910, the event traveled outside of Europe, to Montreal, Canada. For the first time, America hosted the event in 1926, with Chicago as the site of the 28th congress. In 1928, it was Australia’s turn and over a million devotees came to Sydney. Africa hosted the 1930 event and in 1934, pilgrims came in full force to the capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires, the third largest city of the new world.

The idea of making Manila the seat of the next International Eucharistic Congress was launched by a layman, Benito Soliven during a sectional meeting of the First National Eucharistic Congress in 1929. (Kapampangans were avid participants of this national congress and a triumphal provincial arch was even erected for the said event). Met with approval, the members of the Philippine hierarchy brought the matter to Manila Archbishop Michael O’ Doherty who, in turn, submitted a letter of proposal to the Secretary of the Permanent Committee of the International Eucharistic Congress, Count d’Yanville. In 1933, the Archbishop went to Rome to plead before the Permanent Committee and soon after his return, he finally received a letter of unanimous approval for the holding of the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress in Manila, from February 3-7, 1937.

Committees were organized with Most Rev. Gabriel M. Reyes D.D., Archbishop of Cebu as Honorary President. The Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, Most Rev. William Finneman was named President. Manila gave a thunderous and warm welcome to its honored guests led by the Papal Legate, His Eminence Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia, who had first come to the Philippines in 1903 as the appointed Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Vigan) and later, Jaro. One and a half million Catholics from the Philippines and from 54 other countries—including Serbia, Malta and Yugoslavia-- poured into Manila for the event, and in one mammoth procession, 600,000 participated. Pontifical masses held in Luneta and especially the one celebrated by the papal legate on the last day of the Congress were swarmed with hundreds of thousands of devotees and communicants. A magnificent altar was constructed for the occasion and the tabernacle alone cost Php2,200 minus shipping expenses from Canada.

Of special interest to local pilgrims were the Philippine Sectional Meetings of the Congress. These were held in different Manila venues, officiated by eminent religious leaders of the region and conducted in Tagalog, Visayan, Bicolano, Ilocano—and Kapampangan. There must have been a large representation of Kapampangan delegates to merit a separate meeting at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Moderating the 2-day sectional meetings was Rev. Fr. Jose Pamintuan, a Kapampangan priest assigned to the Sampaloc parish. The speakers for the February 1 meeting were Frs. Vicente de la Cruz (parish priest of Mexico) , Esteban David (Minalin) and layman Marcelino Aguas of San Fernando, Pampanga.

On the second day, February 5, Rev. Cosme Bituin, then the cura of Guagua, gave his talk. He was followed by Mabalacat-born Rev. Jose Dayrit of Sapangbato. (Eventually, Fr. Dayrit would leave the priesthood and start a family.) The last speaker was Mr. Juan D. Nepomuceno of Angeles, a town leader, noted businessman and one of the founders of Holy Angel Academy (now a university, the largest in Central Luzon).

When the XXXIII International Eucharistic Congress came to a close, words of praise and acclaim for the Philippines and its people reverberated throughout the city and beyond. Rev. James T. Gillis, editor of The Catholic World, summed up his experience in these words: “ One who has not visited the Philippines and has not known the religiousness of its people will be awed to find that his conception of the spiritual life of this country has an estimation of it far below the real thing. The Eucharistic Congress just closed will live in my memory as an event which is exceeding in its manifestation of the consuming devotion of the people to Christ in the Holy Eucharist”.


The Observer said...

I have an original copy of the program for this event. It was sent to my great grandfather who resided in Cebu City at that time. The postmark is dated February 3, 4p.m., 1937

alex r. castro said...

Since it was such an important international religious event, many commemoratives were made of the 1937 Eucharistic Congress--including medals, posters and books. I have a souvenir hardbound book from the said event. You have a wonderful memento of an historic event in the Philippines!

Anonymous said...

Philippine Postage Stamps was also issued highlighting the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. Held from February 3 - 7, 1937. The stamp that was issued came in denomination of 2c, 6c, 12c, 20c, 36c, & 50c.

alex r. castro said...

Thanks for the additional info.

Argene Clasara said...

Good day!

May I know the sources/references of this article on the XXXIII congreso eucaristico internacional de Manila? I am going to do a research on this topic. Thanks!

siamanese said...

The Greatest International Event in the Orient: XXXIII International Eucharistic Congress, Philippine. Edited by Agripino D. Bautista.Published under the auspices of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Cross. Manila, Philippines, 1938.

Anonymous said...

The postage stamp issued for the event are discribed as Controversial, here is exerpt:

Of all the commemorative stamps issued in the Philippines, the one honoring the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila on February 3 to 7, 1937 was the most memorable one. It reached the courts, as originally contemplated by the postal authorities, the design of the stamp was a chalice with the Sacred Heart above it and a grape vine and stalks of wheat for its border.

When Bishop Aglipay supreme head of the Philippine Independent Church heard of it, he promptly filed a writ of prohibition with the Court of First Instance of Manila and later with the Supreme Court to prevent the sale of these stamps on the ground that their sale would violate the Constitution which prohibited the appropriation of any public money for the use, benefit or support of any sect, church or system of religion. According to Bishop Aglipay the stamps were propaganda for the benefit of the Catholic Church.

I have one of the 12's.

Although the fighting bishop lost his suit against the government, the latter decided to change the design of the controversial stamp. As finally issued the stamp showed a map of the Philippines with rays radiating all around it. Manila, the seat of the congress was indicated by a star.