A diverse and enthusiastic crowd of tens of thousands joined Pope Benedict XVI for his final event in London. Attendees told CNA they were extremely happy to join the event to bear witness to their faith and to show their love for the Pope.
The vigil celebration of the Beatification of John Henry Newman in London's Hyde Park attracted an estimated 80,000 people, the BBC reports.
During the vigil’s Eucharistic Adoration many of the people in attendance knelt on the grass in solemn prayer while others prayed while standing.
Hundreds of people were left outside the park gates, which closed as the Pope arrived. These stayed and prayed just like those on the inside. Most could see the large video screens above the fences.
CNA spoke with members of the vigil crowd, finding that every one of them was enthusiastic for the Pope's arrival and happy to bear witness to the faith in the U.K.
Besides the great presence of English, Welsh and Scottish, there was an enormous mix of people whose origins included Hong Kong, Uganda, Malta and Chile. Their multitudes of waving flags showed their diversity.
A teenager from London named Brendan painted his face with the Vatican coat of arms, displaying the coat’s keys on each cheek. He had written the abbreviation "BXVI" on his forehead and held a sign with the words "We Love U Papa" for all to see.
Mr. and Mrs. John Holden told CNA that they had come from southwest Wales with their son Fr. Martin Holden to see the Pope. They had already seen the Holy Father earlier Saturday morning at Westminster Cathedral. John commented that the event "as you say in America, was 'awesome'."
Tim Rumpus from St. Joseph's parish in Basingstoke came to "bear witness, show that the Catholic faith is still strong in England, and basically, with all the negative press, stand up and be counted."
Attendee Lauren is in her twenties. She is originally from Cardiff, Wales, but presently lives in Battlesea, England. She said about the Pope, "it's wonderful to have him here" and recalled her father's participation in John Paul II's visit in 1982. Magdalena from Slovakia said she was there just to watch the Pope and to pray.
Richard, originally from the Philippines, but now in the U.K. for work, explained he came to the "vespers" in order to "witness the faithful, the gathering of faith of the entire world in the United Kingdom."
Barry McCarthy, from London, was there with his wife and child. He said "we're here today to celebrate our faith." He added that he would like "to welcome the Pope and just thank him for coming."
During the vigil Pope Benedict spoke of the “immense spiritual joy” Cardinal Newman’s imminent beatification has caused. He urged the crowd to listen for God’s call in their lives.
“Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart,” he told the audience, alluding to the motto of the cardinal.