Pope Benedict in London – Day 2
The Holy Father began Saturday 18th September by meeting the leaders of the main political parties. It was his first opportunity to meet the Prime Minister, who has been mourning his father this week. Tomorrow, David Cameron will echo the Pope’s address at Westminster Hall. Already, released extracts from a Joint Communiqué between HM Government and the Papal delegation, reveal that Mr. Cameron will declare that “faith is part of the fabric of our country. It always has been and it always will be. As you, your Holiness, have said … faith is not a problem for legislators to solve … but rather a vital part of our national conversation. And we are proud of that.”
The Pope then celebrated a votive Mass of the Precious Blood in Westminster Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In his homily the pontiff reflected on the mystery of the Precious Blood, on the Cross, in the Eucharist and in the priesthood. He pointed out the centrality of the Mass to England’s Catholics, especially during the centuries after the reformation when many paid the ultimate price for their defence of the truth of the Eucharist. The Pope also explored how our sufferings lead us into a closer relationship with Christ crucified. The Holy Father expressed his sorrow to the victims of clerical sexual abuse. He concluded by calling all to be witnesses to the Cross and to build a society “truly worthy of man”. The full text of his homily can be found here.
After Mass the Pope met two and a half thousand young people in the Piazza of the Cathedral. he then processed to the Chapel of St. David within the Cathedral. Here he blessed the new mosaic of St. David and prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Cardigan, which had been brought from the Principality by Welsh pilgrims. The Pope then addressed the people of Wales, expressing his regret at not being able to visit them but nevertheless wishing them well and declaring “Bendith Duw ar bobol Cymru!”
During the afternoon the Pope had a private meeting with victims of sexual abuse. The Pope expressed his and the Church’s “deep sorrow and shame” to the four women and one man. He then traveled to St. Peter’s Residence for Older People in Vauxhall. In his address to residents and staff, the Holy Father praised their work and called for society to respect life from beginning to end. Reflecting on his own age he encouraged the residents to look to John Paul II as an example of coping with suffering and infirmity. He then boarded the popemobile once again and traveled along the Mall to a Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park. About 5,000 protesters also took to the streets of London but they were overshadowed by the thousands of well-wishers who lined the route. The Mall was adorned in Union and Vatican Flags as the Pope made his way to the Vigil. He entered the venue to be greeted by music from Handel’s Messiah and the roar of an enthusiastic crowd.
The Vigil on the eve of the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman was a joyous occasion. The Pope reflected on Newman’s passion for truth. Reflecting on Newman’s meditation – “God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another” – the Holy Father called on all present to be open to the voice of Jesus, the voice which knows the service each for which each of us has been created. The full text of his address is available here.
As the Blessed Sacrament was brought to the altar the noise of the crowd gave way to peaceful meditation and reflection. After Benediction the crowd gave the Holy Father a joyful farewell as he returned to the Apostolic Nunciature. Tomorrow he will fly from London to Birmingham, England’s second city, to beatify Cardinal Newman.