The Congress Bell will be visiting the diocese as part of the preparation for the Eucharistic Congress 2012 from 29th September to 9th October 2011.



29 September – 9 October 2011


to be announced

The Bell will be arriving in Kildare & Leighlin diocese on the 29th September 2011 and will be leaving the diocese on the 9th October 2011.  The Bell may also be present at the National Ploughing Championship from the 20th September to the 22nd September.

Please note that this itinerary may change slightly from time to time as neighbouring diocese collaborate with one another.  To participate in the events that will be taking place in this diocese, please contact the diocesan delegate for this diocese.

More details to follow.

The Congress Bell

The Eucharistic Congress Bell is a key symbol of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. The Bell will reflect the invitation to faith, to prayer, to reconciliation and to mission in which has always been important in our Christian tradition and is no less so today. The pilgrimage of the bell throughout the Dioceses of Ireland will be a vehicle to:

  • Invite people to deepen their communion with Christ and with one another.
  • Promote the pastoral aims of the Congress
  • Animate the people of your Diocese to become involved with the Eucharistic Congress both locally and nationally.
  • Invite people to come to the Congress in June 10-17, 2012

 Notes on the Eucharistic Congress Bell

The International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Dublin next year will certainly bring a lot of visitors to the country; about 25,000 delegates are expected from abroad.  But it’s also hoped that many Irish people will be part of the Congress and participate in some of the events taking place during the week of June 10-17th 2012.  At the last Eucharistic Congress in Quebec in 2009, an ark was used as a symbol or device for the Congress, and it toured Canada in the months before the Congress to awaken and call people to the event about to take place.  In Ireland, a bell was chosen and, at present, the Congress Bell is visiting every diocese in Ireland, calling people to the Congress next year.

The bell was chosen as a suitable ambassador for the 2012 Congress because of its historical significance in Ireland.  In the very early days of Christianity in Ireland, the bell was seen as one of the principal symbols of the new Christian religion which had arrived in this country.  It was a new sound, ringing out from monasteries, churches and chapels, calling people to prayer and announcing the presence of faith.  We’re familiar with the Bell of St. Patrick in the National Museum, and there are other bells too which survived the centuries.  It was the custom of Patrick to give a hand-bell to one of his followers whenever he was left in charge of a local Church.  It is recorded that over 50 bells were given to the Church of Connaught alone.  Apparently Patrick had 3 smiths in his household whose task was to make these bells. The Book of Cuana (now lost) tells that Patrick’s own bell was taken from his grave in 522 by Colm Cille, having lain there for over 60 years, according to the Annals of Ulster.  St. Patrick’s Bell was one of three precious relics, called the minna, which included his goblet and “The Angels Gospel” (so called because it is said to have been given to Colm Cille by the hand of an angel).  The beautiful shrine for St. Patrick’s Bell was commissioned between 1091 and 1105 by King Domhnall Ua Lochlainn, and was made by Cudulig u Inmainen and his sons; this richly decorated artefact contrasts with the more workman-like bell itself, which was originally made of iron hammered into shape and had a handle held in place by rivets.  It has since been coated in bronze. The hereditary keepers of the bell were the O’Mellan family (O Maelseachlainn).[1]

There are a number of significant references in Irish literature which bear testimony to the significance of bells in the culture of Celtic Ireland.   One of these occurs in Agallamh na Seanórach, a mixture of poetry and prose from the 12th century (Colloquy of the Ancients), the principal source of the stories of the Fianna.  In this work, the warriors Oisín and Caílte Mac Ronain, tell the tales of the exploits of the Fianna to St. Patrick, and in the telling they mock the clanging of the Christian bell and laud instead the melodious singing of the blackbird.  The motif of the blackbird and the bell has survived in literature (for example in the poem The Blackbird of Derrycairn by Austin Clarke) and in recent years was the inspiration for a television programme hosted by philosopher John Moriarty (The Blackbird and the Bell).

The beautiful story of the Children of Lir recounts the story of the four children of Lir, the king, who were turned into swans by their stepmother Aoife.  The story tells how the children, Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn, lived as swans for 900 years on the lakes of Ireland until they heard the sound of the Christian bell and were baptised.  The legend is recalled in the lyrics of the song Silent O Moyle, by Thomas Moore:

When shall heav’n its sweet bell ringing,

Call my spirit from this stormy world?

 The bell was a sound of liberation, freedom and entry into the new life of Christ.

For centuries, a bell summoned people to Mass in Ireland.  In the Penal Days, when Mass could not be heard in any Church, the bells were silent.  So the bells of our Churches peal joyfully when they call us to the Eucharist, calling us once more in the freedom of the children of God.  The Angelus bell tolls each day, calling us to reflect on the mystery of Christ becoming human in the Incarnation; on RTE television and radio, the ringing of the Angelus is a still a witness to our faith in the presence of our God who became human and lived among us.

The Eucharistic Congress bell originated in the Dominican Convent in Portstewart, and has been placed in a new setting which enables it to be carried easily from place to place by four people.  In fact, most of the journey around Ireland is on foot, the bell being carried by volunteers.  The bell is accompanied by a number of icons, which reflect the four stages of preparation for the Eucharistic Congress:

The Icon of Our Lady of Refuge and St. John the Evangelist reminds us that “Christ gathers us as a Eucharistic community” (Stage One)

The Icon of Christ Panocrator  proclaims that “Christ gathers us to listen, to hear, to be nourished and to be formed into a community by God’s Word.” (Stage Two)

The Icon of Elijah and the Raven indicates that “Christ gathers us to be nourished by the Bread of Life.” (Stage Three)

The Pentecost Icon shows us that “Christ gathers and strengthens us for Mission by the Word and the Bread of Life.” (Stage Four).

We will have the opportunity to engage in these four stages of preparation at many different venues throughout the diocese on two evenings before Christmas and two evenings in the Spring.

The Eucharistic Congress bell will be in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin from September 29th until October 9th.  It will arrive by boat on the river Barrow to Carlow, where it will spend two days in the Cathedral.  The bell itinerary is available on the diocesan website.

The visit of the bell to our diocese is calls us to the congress and invites us to prepare for this significant event in our history.  All are invited to any of the venues which the bell will visit; you might even get the chance to ring it!