Posted by esbvm on 24th September 2010
As excited pilgrims made their way to Hyde Park on the third day of the Pope’s visit some found their progress impeded by protests from various groups opposed to the visit who had organised a demonstration at Hyde Park Corner extending down Piccadilly. However, far from the 10,000 claimed the numbers appeared to be no more than 5,000.
As one of 10 members of ESBVM who were invited pilgrims, I made my way to the enclosure and found a seat in the front row by the stage. Carol Vorderman presented entertainment from different parts of the Catholic Community in the hours leading up to the Pope’s arrival. There was also moving testimony from the parents of murdered teenager, Jimmy Mizen. I didn’t meet up with other members of the Society until later but we were all struck by the prayerfulness of the vigil, especially during Adoration.
Shortly before the Pontiff’s arrival, the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales walked on to the stage, waving enthusiastically at the waiting crowd. There was an air of informality about the whole event, which members of the hierarchy seemed to enjoy. A vast procession of banners were carried onto the stage by representatives from parishes throughout the country as well as various Catholic groups who were greeted by the bishops.
Huge crowds lined the Mall as the Popemobile made its progress and the scenes were relayed to those waiting in in Hyde Park on vast screens. As The Priests sang Vivaldi’s Laudamus Te, Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes and pieces from Handels’ Messiah. The New English Orchestra , a freelance ecumenical orchestra of musicians from all over the country, provided musical accompaniment with their musical director, Nigel Swinford.
As the Pope arrived in the Park a huge roar was heard. The Popemobile moved amongst the waiting crowds and drew up by the stage with a beaming Archbishop Vincent Nichols beside him. The Pope made his way to the stage acknowledging the waves and cheers of the crowd.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark welcomed the Pope, referring to the nearby site of Tyburn where both Catholic and Anglican martyrs died . He gave thanks that “in more recent times, the Christian Churches in our land work together in the light of the Gospel for the common good of all in this country,” and said that there was much that united us.
Following the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes, the Pope preached. Reflecting on Newman’s message for all and influence in his own life and stressed the importance of prayer,
“without the interior transformation which takes place through the grace of the sacraments, we cannot, in Newman’s words, “radiate Christ”; we become just another “clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) in a world filled with growing noise and confusion, filled with false paths leading only to heartbreak and illusion.”
The Pope then lit the Paschal candle from which parish representatives lit their candles and processed in front of the stage as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began. The Litany of the Sacred Heart was recited, followed by Cardinal Newman’s prayer that the light of Jesus “penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine” and his hymn, Lead Kindly Light was sung.
At the end of the service X factor finalist, Liam McNally sang a moving rendition of the Nunc Dimittis which was warmly received by Pope, bishops and people.
The whole event radiated warmth and prayer. Reflections of Blessed John Henry Newman embraced his life as an Anglican throughout the whole Papal visit. There were a number of Anglican Bishops and other church representatives at the Beatification including Arhbishop Gregorious of Thyateiria and Bishop Christopher Hill, both ESBVM patrons.
An Anglican clergyman wrote to Newman when he was made a Cardinal:
“I wonder if you know how much you are loved by England … by all religiously minded England … And I wonder whether this extraordinary and unparalleled love might not be … utilised,as one means to draw together into one fold all Englishmen who believe.”
Might not these words apply equally today to Newman and to Pope Benedict who has spoken from the heart, Cor ad Cor Loquitor, during this momentous and historic visit!
Amanda C Dickie,
Hon. Press Secretary, ESBVM