Friday, 17 September 2010

Pope Arrives in England to a Warm Sunny Welcome

The Pope today sweep into St Mary's University College in Twickenham for a busy morning meeting Religious, Schools and Inter-Faith assembly. Althought there were a few protestors at the gate the rousing welcome he received from the students and staff of the college at the gate and the school children gathered in front of the chapel far outweighed those protests.

In the chapel he spoke to representatives of Religious and especially addressed those involved in education. In particular he remembered how he was taught as a young boy by 'the English Ladies' who were part of the order who have their foundation in that great English woman, Mary Ward. He also gave thanks for those Religious in schools who "provide a safe environment for children and young people."

After praying with all those gathered he moved off in the Popemobile to take part in the Big Assembly with nearly 4,000 school children and their teachers. What a cheer went up as the Pope entered the sports field! There he not only heard the songs and beautiful voices of Catholic school children but took part in a 2 way conversation via the internet with St John Vianney Catholic School in the Gambia. It was a powerful moment reflecting the global outreach of the Catholic Church but also the commitment of British people to their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, a sign of true solidarity. In his speech to the children he encouraged them to become saints and follow the path of holiness. Among the schools present where those from Surrey and Sussex including all those named after Cardinal Newman. This great English man is to be beatified by the Pope at Birmingham on Sunday.

Finally he moved to the stunning Waldgrave Room in the College to meet and speak with Inter-Faith leaders including Dr Azzam from the Muslim Community and the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks. He especially wished the Jewish Community a happy and holy celebration of Yom Kippur. The Pope stressed the common searching for the sacred which bound all faiths together. He emphasised as well the Catholic Church's continuing commitment to inter-faith dialogue since Vatican II. Through cooperation and dialogue fundamentalism and sectarianism can be undermined and be "a convincing witness before the world." 

The Holy Father then headed back to the Papal Nunciature for lunch and a rest before his afternoon schedule begins again in earnst as this blog is published.

Fr Lombardi, the Vatican Press Spokesperson in an impromtu press conference at the end of the morning told the assembled the media that the Pope had found the whole morning a real "feast of joy."

The picture shows your intrepid blogger in front of the popemobile. Sorry only picture been able to get!

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