Pope Benedict The Sixteenth-visits Birmingham-The Heart of England

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The Beautiful Altar For The Mass

As one of the privileged 50 000 or more who went to Cofton Park in Birmingham, UK yesterday for a great day for British Catholics and a great day for the Church I could experience first hand the ‘aura’ of peace around Pope Benedict the Sixteenth. At the Mass a Londoner was declared Blessed and we could see the joy of God’s people gathered together. It was a great day all in all and worth every minute of the 4 am start!

Pope Benedict the Sixteenth was ‘on form’ as usual and British Catholics felt sad that he had to go home we could easily have kept him. Pope Benedict the Sixteenth endeared himself to all but the hardest of hearts.

It was quite a rainy September start on the morning of 19th September as many Parishes massed together at chosen checkpoints from which an army of West Midland travel Double Decker buses drove through the dark and silent streets of Birmingham to the PArk.

The mood was one of quiet excitement as 600 people plus turned up at at our local Parish Church awaiting their buses.

The rain was there to greet us at the Park and row after row of coaches more than I had ever seen in one car park had already emptied themselves of Christ’s body on earth who were eagerly going through the security checks. As we started the long walk to the park we were more nervous than excited about where we were to sit and would we get a chance to see the Pope!

The highlight for me of Pope John Paul 1982 visit had been his drive past in the British Leyland made Popemobile sadly JOhn Paul and British Leyland are no more and it was a Mercedes Popemobile the Pope used I was a little sad he wasn’t using a Jaguar to get around in too.

Finally we settled for a mile away from the altar (above) which everyone remarked was the best altar so far of the visit (save the beautiful Westminster Cathedral altar).  It was suddenly 9am and we were all cheered up from the wet and cold by Boyce and Stanley in a powerful praise and worship session.

Everyone was glad that after so much work and effort things were running like clockwork. A surge of joy ran through the crowd as the papal helicopter circled above us and we waved our flags at him blessing us from above you could almost feel his pride.

People started saying that as the Pope had arrived the rain would stop and the sun would come out and so it did about five minutes later. We all dried off.

Too far up a hill to be near the Popemobile we waved on and the procession of many, many priests coming down the hill was a site to see. One girl rushed up to us saying the Pope had just kissed her friends little sister who was 3 weeks old!

She was thrilled! That had made her day as my sight of the Pope in 1982 after staying out all night had done for a young girl who was me!

The Beatification Mass began and it seemed over in a flash there was a great hush on the crowd and the residents said nearby the silence was so great you would have thought no one was in the Park interspersed with shouts and songs and alleluias!

Cardinal Newman was a priest for the Birmingham people for 30 years and the Birmingham people did him proud. Brummies love the beauty of the Oratory and the Latin singing.

There was a great presence of the Sacred as people sat and knelt and prayed and gave thanks. It was an honour to be part of it indeed.

Cofton Park seemed like a natural ampitheatre for the Mass as if it was set like that from the beginning, NEwman who used to go to the Park to pray and meditate must have been smiling.

In his sermon the Pope mentioned Coventry and the crowd greeted all his words luckily we were near a big screen so we could see it in the distance and all close up. It was great to see the Oratory father of such hard work Fr Gregory Winterton greeting the Pope. He is amazing for his age and has led a life of faithful service in Newman’s footsteps, he too like Newman is a ‘posh’ Englishman but there are no airs and graces on them.

As I watched the papal plane fly up from the Airport and out of sight later on in the day I felt sad and wistful that a relative you love very much has gone and I decided I would go to Rome as soon as I was able.

Thankyou Pope Benedict the Sixteenth for coming to England and Scotland and making us proud of our faith and our heritage which is often looked down on, ignored or persecuted here.

You made us doubly proud with your wisdom and humility and energy too!

Wishing everyone all the best

A happy pilgrim

Oh and come back soon!