Here's a small selection of reports ands photos from people in the Diocese who took part in the several elements of the Pope's visit in September 2010
Your Webmaster was privileged to attend the Papal Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday morning, along with a number of colleagues from the Diocesan offices. It was a stunning occasion. The powerful music from the organ and orchestra shook the floors. Sunlight coming in the east windows illuminated the altar and the rows of red-robed Bishops and priests. Every so often, as we waited, cheers would filter in from the young people waiting outside in the Piazza. The Pope's voice was gentle but well amplified as he led us in a Votive Mass of the Precious Blood, some of which was in Latin. The media will only have picked up on his words about the abuse scandal, but his homily, inspired by the great crucifix which hangs over the nave, is worth reading in full. It was a momentous occasion and my wife and I felt much honoured to have been there.
Teresa Brown, Ecumenical Officer for Northants and Peterborough, sends this report of an earlier event:-
"Last Friday I attended Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey, led by Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury. With so many ecumenical guests and church leaders gathered from different denominations, it was a very special occasion.
We first watched the Pope’s historic address to British Society from Westminster Hall, on plasma screens inside the Abbey, then welcomed him to the Abbey for Evening Prayer. The significance of this pilgrim from Rome, the successor of St Peter, praying for Christian Unity at the tomb of St Edward the confessor, was profound. The beautiful music from the choir made it all the more poignant, as they sang Duruflé’s Ubi caritas prior to the moment when the Pope and Archbishop disappeared to pray together at the tomb. The joy of seeing them give a final blessing together, quite naturally, affected my ecumenical colleagues too. I was also proud to see young people from both Catholic and Anglican organisations taking part in the prayers.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the Abbey but you can still enjoy watching the service here - http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk/Replay-the-Visit/Watch-Again/Westminster-Abbey-Evening-Prayer
Here's an account of the Cofton Park event as printed in the St Thomas Aquinas & All Saints (Bletchley) newsletter - thanks to Fr Michael Harrison for sending this.
"Emotional, joyous and moving" were some of the words used by the forty parishioners from Bletchley who were among the 55,000 pilgrims at the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park on Sunday celebrated by Pope Benedict. Boarding the coach at 3 am, we arrived in Birmingham in the dark, followed our illuminated parish placard amidst the crowlin the rain and finally took our places in the park at 6.30 am.
"I was standing up from 5.30 am until 2.30 pm, it war tiring but it was well worth it" said Claudio, aged 17. "We got to the very front of the huge crowd and had a great view of the Pope. The atmosphere was amazing".
Caron was very impressed with the organisation of the whole event, which flew by. She especially enjoyed the music, notably Jo Boyce. "It was great being with members of our own parish in the midst of such a huge crowd .. a shared experience. It was definitely worth the early start. I will remember the excitement as we waited for the Pope to arrive .. and the stillness which fell over the whole crowd .. a real sense of his presence".
Sinead, 15, described the day as "fun" and "interesting" and said the Pope was "cool". Gianni, 19, who had had no sleep at all the night before, will always remember the moment when the Pope arrived: "the weather was really awful, cold and rainy .. as the Pope stepped out of the car there was a real buzz in the crowd, the sun came out, there was blue sky and the rain stopped .. it was really weird".
Mick and Oonagh, described the Mass as "inspirational" and "fantastic" and "very relevant to what our society needs today". The abiding memory for their 8 year old son, Eddie, will be "having chips for breakfast at 7.30 am!"
Our thanks to Angela White for organising such a successful day. And the last word goes to Maggie Thomas who said: "The serenity, joy and incredible peace felt by the thousands of us present gives me hope and faith for our, and our children's future"
And here's how the Bucks Free Press local newxpaper reported on the experiences of the pilgrim party from St Augustine's, High Wycombe, to the Hyde Park Vigil:
"PARISHIONERS from St Augustine's in High Wycombe made a pilgrimage to Hyde Park to see the Pope.... The vigil was held on Saturday, September 18 and allowed Catholics to celebrate their faith and pray with the Pope. It was attended by 80,000 people, including 120 from St Augustine's. Sunny weather, picnics and deck chairs were the order of the day and there was non-stop entertainment throughout featuring dance groups and choirs. The Holy Father arrived at 6.30pm and gave a sermon followed by prayers and devotions before closing at 9.00pm.
Parish Priest Father Willie Strain said of the event: “It was a tremendous day, a lovely atmosphere, I was impressed. The excitement was tangible and it was lovely to see so many young people there.” He also visited the Pope in 1982 and compared to two experiences: “I saw Pope John Paul III at Wembley and he was much younger and more extrovert, Pope Benedict XVI was older. He didn't crave the attention and came across as being very humble.”
St Augustine's youth were also keen to play a part. Kevin Ryan was in a procession of children from various parishes who carried a banner to the altar at Hyde Park then shook hands with the Bishops.
Church Youth Rep, Maeve Mckeown from St Bernards School, High Wycombe, met the Pope when he gave a speech to young people outside Westminster Cathedral ; and a family brought their four-year-old son to the park vigil. His father had seen Pope John Paul as a young boy in 1982 and wanted his son to have the same experience. David Sole from Downley, senior Altar Server for St Augustine's, organised the church trip and said: “It was an absolutely uplifting experience and a happy day.”
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The Pope's homilies and speeches are all available at the Papal Visit website here.
Pre-visit Interviews with Mgr Kevin McGinnell and several people involved in Catholic parishes and schools in Beds & Luton were carried on the BBC Three Counties website here.
BBC Northampton did the same with Fr Simon Penhalagan and others - check here.
The Northampton Chronicle on 20th September carried the story of Caitlin Behan, from St Gregory's, who was selected by the Handicapped Children's Pilgrimage Trust to carry their banner at the Hyde Park vigil and ended up delivering one of the readings from the stage.
Young people from schools in the Diocese are prominently featured on the Powerpoint record of the Big Assembly at Twickenham produced by CAFOD and downloadable from here.
Niamh Moloney, who had then just joined the NYMO team, was also prominently featured in coverage of the major public events of the Visit.