Friday, 22 October 2010

More Parish Memories of the Papal Visit

Paul Rietchel from St Joseph's parish, Dorking reports on the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park, Birmingham:
Pope listens to Archbishop Longley following
beatification of Cardinal Newman
This memorable day started by leaving home at 12.30am and arriving back at 6.30pm. The coach for our group from Dorking along with Redhill parishioners left from St Bede’s, Redhill, where Fr Charles Howell, one of the priests of the parish, gave us a blessing for our pilgrimage to Birmingham. It was the Beatification Mass for Cardinal John Henry Newman, a parish priest and theologian who lived there in the 19th century. Our route took us down the M40 where at 3am we stopped at the Oxford Services along with many other coaches also going to Birmingham.

We arrived in the dark at the red coach park at Cofton Park which used to be the Longbridge car factory. Everyone had to arrive by coach so there were two coach parks for the 1,200 or so coaches taking about 55,000 pilgrims. One of the many costs was miles of temporary fencing for safety in the coach parks! We had a relatively short walk to the disabled wheelchair gate as one of our group was in a wheelchair so we found ourselves in the Park, only 100 yards from the Sanctuary, just in front of the BBC’s commentary box at about 6am. With music and large TV screen we had breakfast and just waited until 8.10 when the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship commenced, live from Cofton Park.

The Pope, having taken off by helicopter from Wimbledon Park, arrived in Birmingham and came amongst the pilgrims in his Popemobile before Mass and fortunately we were close to his route.

Cofton Park was transformed into an open air church and during the three hours that followed there were a few lovely periods of complete silence.The Mass started at 10.15, by which time the drizzle, which had been falling all night, had just stopped and the sun broke through as the Pope announced with prayers that Cardinal Newman is now Blessed. Fr Dominic our parish priest from Dorking was one of 1,000 priests concelebrating with the Pope with parts of the Mass in Latin. Some of the hymns were those written by Cardinal Newman including those whilst an Anglican. The concluding hymn ‘For All the Saints’ was very rousing and uplifting and a grand finale to the public part of the Pope’s visit.

By this time it was 1 o’clock and people got out their picnics before returning to their coaches. No one was rushing to get away. We started to move at about 1.45, the Park was still full and the coach left at about 2.45. The whole day was very moving and certainly not tiring. It was all very relaxed and a wonderful day to be remembered. I was left with the thought that the Mass celebrated by the Pope in an unbroken succession from Christ and St Peter is exactly the same Mass as celebrated daily in our parishes and around the world.

In the words of David Cameron. the Prime Minister, at Birmingham Airport in saying goodbye; he paid tribute to the Pope for challenging Britain to ‘sit up and think and that can only be a good thing’. The Country must not ignore its Christian roots.

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