Archbishop Bernard Longley meets The Soldiers

  Archbishop Bernard with Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Sergeant Richie Maddocks, and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi  Picture by Peter Jennings

Archbishop Bernard with Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Sergeant Richie Maddocks, and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi Picture by Peter Jennings

 During a meeting with military singing trio 'The Soldiers' , Archbishop Bernard Longley assured them that Catholics throughout Birmingham  were praying for British soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq over Christmas and  the new year.

At Midnight Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, Archbishop Longley said:  "We remember especially the members of the armed forces and armed forces personnel whose duty keeps them in Afghanistan or other troubled areas, far from their loved ones at home and feeling the distance particularly at Christmas.

"We pray for them that the Prince of Peace may bless them and their families - and that the same Christ may touch and restore goodness to the hearts of those who seek change only through violence or threats."

Archbishop Longley met The Soldiers at  Symphony Hall in Birmingham, during the BBC Radio WM Ed Doolan Christmas Show, broadcast live  on  21 December.

The Archbishop wished 'The Soldiers' - Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Sergeant Richie Maddocks and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi - all the best for their forthcoming UK tour.

These real-life soldiers performed two poignant songs - 'Coming Home' and 'A Soldiers Christmas Letter' from their debut album 'Coming Home', released before Christmas.

'The Soldiers' know first-hand what it is like to be away from their loved ones, and more so at Christmas and vividly captured these emotions in their singing.

The lead track 'Coming Home', an original song, has been released as a digital download with proceeds going to the Army Benevolent Fund. Part of the proceeds from sales of the album are also going directly to charities, Help For Heroes and the Royal British Legion.

Like Archbishop Bernard Longley, it was the first time that the trio had appeared on stage at Symphony Hall. The Soldiers will be back in Birmingham on Wednesday, 7 April 2010, during their UK tour.

The youngest and most recognisable member of The Soldiers is 24-year-old Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi, who appeared on the X Factor in 2007. From Caerphilly, South Wales, Idzi has served in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the 20th Armoured Brigade.

Gulf War veteran Sergeant Major Gary Chilton joined the Royal Armoured Corps in 1984 straight from school and fought in the Gulf War.

Sergeant  Richie Maddocks, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, enlisted into the British Army at the age of 16, and also fought in the Gulf War. He has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Canada, and the Falkland Islands.

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