Initial involvement with the visit was when we were asked to nominate three young people to be present on the steps of Westminster Cathedral to welcome Pope Benedict. Ashley, Andre and Stephen, who started a CAFOD Group at St Bonaventure’s School in Forest Gate, were invited to attend and you can find out more about their day on Facebook.
Both Joanna and Mary attended the Hyde Park Vigil.
“After watching the service at Westminster Cathedral on television and seeing the wonderful welcome the young people gave Pope Benedict on the steps of the cathedral, the speech from Pascal Uche and even spotting CAFOD colleagues and members of the Bentwood Youth service, I was looking forward to actually being at the Vigil in Hyde Park.
I had been fortunate to receive an invite from the Bishops Conference to the ‘seated area’ and thought the atmosphere may be slightly staid – how wrong could I have been with all the youth services represented including over 80 from Brentwood – many of whom had been up since 5!”
Mary added: “What a fantastic day – long – as I had to get up to get my son Luke to the station by 6.05 am as he was going to the Youth session at Westminster before getting going myself! – but fantastic.”
Joanna continues: “The stage event prior to the arrival of the Pope was a wonderful celebration of Catholic life and highlighted its contribution to British society through the many Catholic charities, including CAFOD.
The real life stories were very moving. Stories that ranged from a young mum from Malawi and her experience as an asylum seeker, to the parents of Jimmy Mizen who told of their efforts to work with young people affected by crime and violence.
Pope Benedict arrived to the most amazing cheers but then there was a stillness and perfect quiet that drifted over the park.
The vigil was marked with wonderful singing and the procession of candles and, for me, the visit was marked by Pope Benedict’s words on international development when he spoke with representatives of British society, including the diplomatic corps, politicians, academics and business leaders in Westminster Hall”
” … in the field of development, there has been collaboration on debt relief, fair trade and financing for development … I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013. In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare.”
Mary said: “A day full of warmth, fun, friendliness and spirituality with many surprises! The Vigil was very varied and moving with beautiful singing and prayers and a wonderful ‘togetherness’ – well worth the journey and the long day. I am so glad to have witnessed this and been a part of it – it will stay with me”.
The Brentwood Diocese was well represented at all the events during the Papal visit and we also like to salute the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service for being such brilliant ambassadors.