Saturday, 9 October 2010

Pope's Visit: Report from a Welsh Pilgrim

His holiness Pope Benedict XVI state visit to the United Kingdom
London 17th -18th September 2010

By Justyn John James

After arriving in London on Friday night, we awoke early on Saturday morning in great excitement and anticipation for the day’s events. My Brother Stephen was privileged to attend the Papal Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday morning. And so we quickly made our way down to the Cathedral.

A sizable crowd had gathered in the streets immediately surrounding Westminster Cathedral and were eagerly waiting for a glimpse of the Holy Father. Many people with banners, placards and flags watched and listened intently to the service on giant television monitors showing live footage from inside the Cathedral. We spoke to a lady from the Caribbean who had come with her granddaughter and a man in a wheelchair who movingly could not see what was happening but never the less wanted to be there to show his support. The Holy Father then emerged from the Cathedral for a moving greeting with young people who had formed outside in the small piazza and the excitement levels reached fever pitch, as the faithful serenaded Pope Benedict with shouts of “viva il papa”, He gave a brief talk and blessing to the many who were present and then left to continue his apostolic journey. After lunch in the nearby Albert pub, we too left and made our way back to the hotel.

On our way to the Hyde Park prayer vigil we were greeted with the most amazing and wonderful atmosphere, which was at once infectious; the streets of London were packed with pilgrims for all over the world, and all four corners of the country, Carrying banners and flags the throng was also making its way towards
Hyde Park, with many singing hymns on the way which reverberated through the bustling streets of London. This sight indeed was a joy to behold, and one of the memories which will stay with me forever, as central London was transformed into a vibrant if some what transient Catholic community for this momentous day.

Once inside the atmosphere was electric. Faithful members of the Church militant, suffering and triumphant were a joy to behold as all became one; Bishops, priests, nuns and laity alike. A large and seemingly never ending procession of people carrying and proudly displaying their parish banners made there way up to the podium, where they were warmly greeted by the bishops of England and Wales, including our own Bishop Tom Burns and Bishop Daniel Mullins. We were treated to a diverse series of performances, to many to mention, all beautifully preformed, one moment which was particularly touching was the parents of murdered catholic teenager Jimmy Mizen who spoke beautifully, one must applaud their courage, forgiveness and hope as an example of true Christian virtue!

As the Holy Father approached Hyde Park the excitement again began to build, with live images beamed onto giant screens increasing the tension and excitement as the popemobile made its way down the Mall and past the hundred of thousands of pilgrims who had come to see and support our pope. It had been a long wait but the wait was worth it. When Pope Benedict finally arrived and came through the crowd in his popemobile, a “wave of joy and happiness” greeted him. Many people around me were over come with emotion at this point, not least my own Mother and Auntie. I must say that I became quite emotional too seeing the Holy Father, what a truly humble and spiritual man he is, a true apostle of Christ, he is an inspiration to me and I am sure to all those who were present at this historic event, the light of Christ genuinely shines through him, illuminating all who see him. Every one of the faithful pilgrims in the vast crowd was so happy to be there and show their faith and support towards him. All thanks must be to God who continually gives us these moments of Grace and great joy.

The Liturgy began with psalm 119 and an account of the beatitudes from the Gospel of St Mathew. In his homily Pope Benedict spoke intimately on the teaching of Blessed Cardinal Newman. Then the crowds fell into a peaceful silence as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began, with many kneeling for the Benediction. The Holy Father himself was kneeling with the faithful in contemplation and prayer. This again was a moving moment and a tremendous manifestation of the vitality of the faith in this country! The liturgy finished with hymns and prayers by Blessed Cardinal Newman and the Tantum ergo. At the end of the service a beautiful rendition of the Irish blessing was sung by a young boy named Liam McNally.

We came away with the rest of the faithful pilgrims, slowly seeping away into the night, resonating with a feeling of great joy and a smile on our faces as did all who were present, As his holiness Pope Benedict has said “Be witnesses to the beauty of holiness, the splendour of the truth and the joy and freedom born of a relationship with Christ’. Let us hope we can all deepen our relationship with Christ and unite with one another in holiness through, what was for those present, the unforgettable apex of this historic Papal Visit, and then we too, like the Holy Father and our blessed Mother may be called true witnesses of Christ.

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