Sensational start to Westminster's diocesan renewal programme

 More than 11,000 people from parishes across London and Hertfordshire flocked to Wembley Arena on Friday for the launch of At Your Word, Lord, spiritual renewal programme for the Diocese of Westminster. The celebration was the largest gathering of Catholics in London since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982. As people poured into the area they were welcomed by Master of Ceremonies James Parker. He went on to read about God's promise to Noah from the Book of Genesis, which was re-enacted in dance by students from St Pauls College, Sunbury on Thames. The Youth 2000 choir and musicians sang a rousing rendition of Be Thou My Vision. Dancer Steve Murray performed a mime of the story of Ananias before Jenny Kettleton lead a rehearsal of music for the evening. This was followed by the Renew prayer - spelt out on a giant screen and a video representation of the Renew Programme. For the next hour, the At Your Word Litany was sung while representatives from parishes, schools, colleges, agencies and pastoral departments processed into the arena, followed by religious and priests in white vestments. There was loud applause and everyone rose to their feet, and began singing Jesus Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow as Cardinal Cormac and his auxiliary bishops entered the arena for the beginning of Mass. There was further spontaneous applause throughout the service. (To read the text of Cardinal Cormac's homily check today's ICN news). Mass ended somewhat later than the scheduled 10pm. Another rousing Gloria was sung and the congregation, accompanied by a steel band raised the roof with a rendition of We Are Marching as the Cardinal and processions filed out. The party atmosphere continued as parishioners left the arena and boarded their coaches for home. A Westminster Diocese statement says, it is expected that 40,000 people will join a small faith sharing community in their parish and as many as 100,000 will participate in the daily prayer and meditations.

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