Over 10,000 people from all corners of England and Wales attended the Mass in celebration of the Holy Year of Jubilee 2000 at the Birmingham NEC on Monday. Radio Two announcer Don McLean interviewed several of those who had helped to make the event possible, as coaches arrived and parish groups began taking their seats in the huge arena for what was to be the the biggest Mass since the Pope's visit in 1982. With liturgy devised by Canon Tom Farrell, music was provided by choirs from St Chad's in Birmingham, St Marie's in Sheffield and the cathedrals of Clifton and Shrewsbury - all under the direction of Fr Peter Jones. There were also performances from the Brass Group of St Peter's School, Solihull and CJM Music. Spectacular red and turquoise banners, the central one carrying a liquid gold figure of Christ, swirled over the altar. These were the creation of Sr Antony Wilson and her team of seamstresses at Liverpool Metropolitan cathedral. Mass began with the lighting of the Jubilee Flame, as the choir sang 'Jesus Christ Yesterday, Today and Forever'. Then the processions started moving through the enormous arena. There were representatives from each diocese carrying banners and candles, 300 priests followed by the bishops, Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Pablo Puente. Archbishop Michael Bowen presided over the Mass. The homily was given by Archbishop Couve de Murville. The Mass was sponsored by four lay Catholic organisations and a representative from each took a reading or prayers: Sheilagh Murphy, National President of the National Union of Catholic Mothers; Brian Hargeaves, Grand President of the Catenian Association; Anne Fox, President of the Catholic Women's League and Tony Britten, Supreme Knight of the Knights of St Columba. For many, the most touching moment of the whole event came towards the end when two young people, Laura Pugh from Clifton and Matthew Holden from Birmingham, came forward to receive their commission to represent the young people of England and Wales at World Youth Day in Rome this August. "Confirm in us the message of your Gospel," they said. "Open us to your words of truth and life which the Church entrusts to us for the Third Millennium. Help us to be witnesses to those who have yet to meet you so that we may always be faithful to you." It was late afternoon before the last coach left the NEC car park. For many there were several hours of travelling before they reached home. A long day - but one which will be remembered for many years to come. See Ambassadors for Catholic youth for story and pictures of Laura Pugh and Matthew Holden.
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