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All-India, Burma and Ceylon Eucharistic Congress photograph album


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

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Pius XI, whose papacy stretched from 1922 to 1939 was invested in creating a sense of united identity and dedication in Catholics all over this world. He worked towards this end partly through the Vatican Radio, which allowed his speeches to be broadcast globally, but also through promoting National and International Eucharistic Congresses. These events, which drew large numbers of attendees and typically lasted for a few days, featured legates from the Vatican and centered around a mass adoration of the Eucharist. From December 29th to 31st, 1937, the National Eucharistic Congress of India was held in Chennai (then known as Madras), and drew Catholics from across the country as well as from Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Leo P. Kierkels, the titular Archbishop of Salamis and Apostolic Delegate to India served as the Papal Legate of the event. The city was filled with visitors: "Nearly all the Archbishops and Bishops of India and heads of missions, over 50 in number, in their picturesque scarlet robes, and nearly 1,000 priests, mostly Indian, and the laity in their thousands in small groups and large pilgrimages poured into Madras, unmindful of inconvenience or expense, displaying the keenest interest and enthusiasm from start to finish" (Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Committee, 381). It is unknown who composed the scrapbook in this collection, but it seems likely that he or she was involved in the planning of the Congress or had some authority over the event. One of the inscriptions on the third page reads "May we who have done our bit for the Eucharistic Congress in Madras be found to deserve well always of our Eucharistic King. - Francis Carvalho, 1st January 1938", which suggests that the owner of the scrapbook also contributed to the Congress. Additionally, the photographs in the scrapbook show a high level of access to the altar enclosure. Although the album in this collection contains little to no commentary on the event, it does illuminate certain aspects of Catholicism in India at the time, and shows ways in which the religion adapted to its setting. For example, one photograph of the Eucharistic altar is labeled "Approach to Altar Pandal"; the word 'pandal' is from the Tamil-Malayalam pantal and refers to a temporary pavilion roofed with bamboo. As a whole, this album provides a valuable visual depiction of the historically significant Congress.

Sources: Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Committee, The Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume. Chennai, 1939. From:

Pollard, John. The Papacy in the Age of Totalitarianism, 1914-1958. Oxford: OEP, 2014. From:

This photo album contains seventeen different images from the National Eucharistic Congress of India held in Chennai (then Madras) in 1937. The book is bound in red leather with an illustration of a decorative cross in gold ink on the cover and on the title page is handwritten "A Souvenir of the All-India Burma and Ceylon Eucharistic Congress Held in Madras December 1937." The third page of the album is inscribed with four notes and signatures, presumably from attendees of the Congress. All of the images in the scrapbook are black and white, and most of the pages with images are also embellished with different pen-and-ink drawings including decorative sketches of the papal cross, triple crown and banners with church insignia. A few of the photographs are embossed with 'M. Doss & Bros. Photographers' and the one loose photograph in the album has 'Dr. Nicholas, Royapuram' written on the back, which could be a reference to the photography studio of John P. Nicholas in the Royapuram neighborhood of Chennai. The photographs captioned "Arrival of the "Papal Legate"," "Civic Reception to H. E. the Apostolic Delegate," "Opening the Congress," "Closing Address by his Grace Archbishop of Madras," "Marian Demonstration," "Part of Final Procession," "The Blessed Sacrament in Procession" and "A Small Portion of the Gathering" show the happenings of the congress and the procession including the enormous crowds drawn for the event. The images that are labeled "Blessed Sacrament Car," "The Altar," "The Altar and Enclosure," "Route Decorations" and "Approach to Altar Pandal" all depict the setting of, or preparations for the event, but not the Congress itself. "Prelates to the Congress," "The Recipients of Papal Honours" and "The Working Committee" are all formal group photographs. Many of the pages in the album have been left blank.

Purchased from Mandalay Bookshop, 2004

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Rive Cadwallader
Finding Aid Date
September 23, 2015
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A Souvenir of the All-India, Burma and Ceylon Eucharistic Congress, 1937-1938.

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