The Catholic Church & 1916

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Press Release Friday September 23rd

“I have seen & heard of the brave deeds of priests and nuns during the week and I believe they are the best friends of the workers. Now, we had better turn to Number One”

– James Connolly, Easter Week, 1916

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin and Minister for Education Richard Bruton will this evening officially launch Ministry Advocacy and Compassion a unique audio visual exhibition chronicling the role of the Church in the events of 1916.

For the first time, historical documents from the Dublin Diocesan Archive will be on display alongside material from many other Religious Orders who were at the centre of events Easter Week – including the Capuchins, Dominicans, Franciscans, Irish Sisters of Charity, Jesuits, the Loreto Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy.

This exhibition takes you into the hearts of the fighting during the Easter Rising, where Catholic Priests risked their lives to minister the Sacraments to the wounded and dying. It examines the crucial acts of the nuns and clergy, as they responded to the immediate needs of the hungry and displaced by providing them with much-needed food and shelter and includes eyewitness accounts of those who ministered to the condemned leaders.

St. Kevin’s Oratory in the Pro Cathedral has been refurbished to host the exhibition which includes artefacts and handwritten letters from the rebel leaders of 1916 and an interactive digital display of documents from the Diocesan Records.

It includes fascinating correspondence between Archbishop William Walsh and the authorities during and after the Rising and letters received from Joseph Mary Plunkett, Patrick Pearse, Fr. Laurence Stafford and many others.

The exhibition also has an audio player whereby the visitor can listen to stories from five witnesses of key events:

  • Fr. Michael Curran’s description of O’Connell Street immediately after the surrender;
  • Sr. Augustine Hayes’s account of life in Dublin during the Rising as seen from the Sisters of Mercy convent, Eccles Street;
  • Mabel Fitzgerald’s protest against the harsh treatment meted out to prisoners and her appeal for the Archbishop’s intervention;
  • Extracts from the annals of the Loreto Sisters at St. Stephen’s Green and Rathfarnham Abbey;
  • An account of the visit to Patrick Pearse in Arbour Hill Prison by Fr. Columbus, OFM Cap.

The interactive touchscreen shows never-before-seen documents from various religious archives, all relating to the Rising.

The exhibition will be open to the public from lunchtime tomorrow (Saturday) and every afternoon until the end of this year. Entry is free.

A series of lunchtime lectures is planned for the coming weeks.