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Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Bishop Crispian Hollis reflects on Papal Visit
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Bishop Crispian

We have been witnessing remarkable events during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

I was privileged to be present for the meeting with Archbishop Rowan Williams and his fellow Anglican Bishops at Lambeth. It was a meeting of particular warmth and welcome. The Holy Father and the Archbishop spent time together in private conversation and very clearly there is considerable rapport between them as was demonstrated later both in Westminster Abbey and on the following morning, when Archbishop Williams was present at the Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

We shared   participation in the Evening Service of Prayer from Westminster Abbey with the Anglican Bishops but because of time factors, we had to listen and watch the Holy Father’s Address in Westminster Hall on screens set up in the Abbey.

The Service of Prayer was a wonderfully spiritual experience – wonderful music, significant readings, two wonderful addresses and the intense prayer for unity that arose from the occasion.

The Address in Westminster Hall illustrated very well how different this visit has been from that undertaken by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Pope Benedict has gone out of his way to speak not simply to our Catholic community but to the nation. He has done so with courage and conviction and has been heard respectfully and with gratitude by almost all who have listened to his words.

The Vigil in Hyde Park was a tour de force and showed the Holy Father in an intensely pastoral light, as did his visit to the Little Sisters in Vauxhall. Some of us had already gone to Birmingham by the time the Vigil took place to be present at a performance of The Dream of Gerontius – Newman’s words, set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.

Then yesterday, we celebrated the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham. The weather was cool and damp but the occasion was extraordinary for the enthusiasm of the celebration and again for the entirely appropriate words of the Holy Father, which graced the occasion.

He then lunched and met with all the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland at Oscott College and gave us significant words of encouragement and affirmation, as well as meeting at the same time with all the students from our seminaries.

We were all tired at the end of the four days but our weariness can have been nothing compared with that of the Holy Father, who showed remarkable stamina and spirit – and gentle love - throughout the visit.

He has given us all – the Catholic community as well as the nation – much food for thought and much encouragement. He has confirmed us in our faith and we could not have asked for more.    

My last word has to be one of immense thanks to all the thousands involved in the preparation for the visit. They have done a remarkable job and we have to be very grateful. My thanks also are due, first of all, to those who organised travel etc from our parishes to the venues and to all who supported this visit by your prayers and sacrifices.

These have been extraordinary blessed days for us all, so let us give heartfelt thanks to the Lord.

Bishop Crispian

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