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Culture night exhibition to show Church in Dublin’s response to disasters

By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 September, 2017

Photos, documents, letters and records from all over the globe documenting the Church in Dublin’s generous outreach to distressed communities coping with natural disasters will be the focus of this year’s Dublin diocesan exhibition for Culture Night.

The exhibition in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe this Friday evening (22 September) will look in particular at the post-World War II years between 1949-1971, highlighting how parishioners in Dublin helped people suffering from war, famine and natural disaster.

According to Dublin diocesan archivist, Noelle Dowling, people will see for the first time documentation which highlights the “overwhelming generosity of Irish people when expressing solidarity with those caught up in disastrous situations”.

Some of the material on display on Friday night includes photographs and letters of thanks and appreciation from Vietnam, which suffered devastation during 20 years of war from 1955 until 1975.

Other disasters highlighted in the exhibition relate to events closer to home, including the storm floods that affected Fairview and areas around the East Wall in December 1954 – which many people still living locally recall.

The flooding events between 7-8 December 1954 were described in the Irish Press at the time as “the worst day following the worst night in memory”.

Ireland was battered by gale-force winds, blizzards, heavy rain and sleet, bringing much of the country to a standstill. Dublin’s road and rail network were closed, and air traffic at Dublin airport was grounded by 60mph winds.

The North Strand was under so much water that the Dublin Evening Mail described it as being “more like Venice than Dublin!

Church appeals following the storms received a tremendous response, and the archive records that one of the most famous conductors of his time, Sir John Barbirolli of the New York Philharmonic and Hallé Orchestra in Manchester offered to host a free concert to help with the relief effort!

Another international event which drew support, the records in the Dublin archives show, was the situation in Hungary in 1956.

A collection taken up for the distressed people of Hungary that year raised over £38,000 – the equivalent of €1.4million in today’s money.

At that time, Catholic clerics in Ireland were denouncing the treatment of the late Cardinal József Mindszenty.

Cardinal Mindszenty was a high profile opponent of the communist government of Hungary after the war. He was tortured and given a life sentence in a 1949 show trial that generated worldwide condemnation.

Other information on display on Friday night concerns Church appeals for aid for relief in Congo, Biafra and East Pakistan as well as appeals for help for flood victims in Italy.

According to the Archdiocese of Dublin, in keeping with the theme of global solidarity, there will be music on the evening from a wide variety of international traditions.

Jasmin, Nikhil and Rajeev of the Indian community will present music from their culture.

The Chilean song – Gracias a la Vida (Thanks to Life) – will be sung by Albert Llussa y Torra from Catalonia, who is a member of the Dublin Diocesan Music Group.

The music programme will also feature the work of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ fame.

The World Meeting of Families 2018 will also feature as part of the Dublin Diocesan celebration of Culture Night 2017.

Volunteers from WMOF2018 will be on hand in Clonliffe College to offer information about next year’s event and to promote volunteering opportunities. Dublin will host the 9th World Meeting of Families from 21 – 26 August 2018.

Culture Night in Holy Cross College & Diocesan Centre begins at 6pm this Friday evening and runs until 10pm. Parking and entry is free & refreshments will be served on the night.

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