A priest in England’s Catholic Diocese of Clifton says the upcoming papal visit has caused “great excitement” among those in the diocese, especially as more than 4,000 of its people will be able to see and hear Pope Benedict XVI. He also noted a “growing awareness” about how unique the beatification of Cardinal Newman will be.
Fr. Michael McAndrew, papal visit coordinator for the diocese, described the growing enthusiasm in an interview published on the website of the papal visit and summarized in a press release from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW).
Fr. McAndrew said that one third of the Diocese of Clifton’s priests have said they would like to be considered to concelebrate at John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Beatification Mass. Thirty-five pilgrim leaders have volunteered to lead each pilgrim group, which the priest called “a really positive response.”
The Pope will not visit the west coast diocese, but it has been allocated 2,300 pilgrim passes for the Sept. 18 prayer vigil at Hyde Park in London and another 1,700 pilgrim passes for the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park in Birmingham on Sept. 19.
The priest said the vigil promises to be “a moment of profound Christian witness.” It will begin with a procession of 3,000 people, led by the young. Participants will carry banners through central London to offer “a visible witness of the Catholic communities in our country.”
The Holy Father will preach and pray at the vigil in the early evening.
“Pope Benedict has a great gift for breaking open the Word of God and teaching the Gospel in a very simple and profound way. That's something people are looking forward to very much,” Fr. McAndrew noted.
He also described a “growing awareness” that Cardinal Newman’s beatification is “a unique event.”
“It's the first beatification that's ever happened in England,” Fr. McAndrew explained. “It's also the case that Pope Benedict doesn't usually preside at beatifications - but he's making an exception for us.”
According to the priest, he made the exception “because of his great, personal love and interest in John Henry Newman and also his appreciation of his writings and the huge influence that this great Englishman has had on the whole worldwide Church.”
“I think what is really capturing the imagination is that the Pope comes among us as a pilgrim. We are invited to take part in this event in the same spirit - we travel as pilgrims,” he continued, calling this a reminder that Catholics’ “journey of faith” is “lived in the communion of the Church.”
In Fr. McAndrew’s view, the Mass of Beatification will remind Catholics of two things: its celebration by the Pope will remind them of his leadership of the Catholic Church, and that the Church is not only earthly but stretches “into eternal life, into Heaven.”
“Pope Benedict is not coming to the Diocese of Clifton but it seems to me Clifton will go to see him and hear him and we are preparing very enthusiastically to welcome Pope Benedict to our land,” he concluded.
The website for the papal visit to the U.K. is http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk