Saturday, June 16, 2012

God is not mocked: The 33rd International Eucharistic Congress of 1937 in Manila and the fire that destroyed Tondo

The 33rd International Eucharistic Congress in Luneta Park, Manila (Feb. 3-7, 1937)
From a private collection. 

The attention of the universal Church is currently turned towards the 50th International Eucharistic Congress now taking place in Dublin, Ireland. I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to recount a mysterious event that took place in Manila in 1937, the year the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress took place in Manila.

The following account comes from an extraordinary newsletter written by Fr. Lawrence Bunzel SVD and now held in the SVD Central Province's archives in Catholic Trade Manila. The letter is dated October 28, 1937, and was sent from Christ the King Missionary Seminary and addressed to the Friends of the SVD Missions in the Philippines. Emphases mine.

“Communism is trying to spread itself here of late. There is great danger that it may succeed, unless the government and the Church help to check it. It seems Divine Providence is helping us. Let me tell you of an incident which occurred this year. The nest of communism is here in a suburb of Manila which is called Tondo. When the Eucharistic Congress was held here last February the communists of Tondo told the people to boycott the Congress by not decorating their houses. The communists threatened to burn all houses that would be decorated. The people were afraid to decorate, except one family in the heart of the suburb. A few weeks after the Congress Tondo was almost completely destroyed by fire. During the blaze much ammunition and many bombs exploded. The peculiar thing about the fire was that the one house which was decorated during the Congress was spared, although it was in the midst of the burned district. No one could explain how it escaped destruction.”

Today, Tondo is arguably Metro Manila's most Catholic district; shrines to the Hesus Nazareno are everywhere and the annual celebration of its patronal feast (the feast of the Santo Niño held every third Sunday of January) sees massive religious processions and the arrival of millions of pilgrims.

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