Papal Visit (vi) Twickenham - 'a once in a lifetime experience'

Girls from St Elizabeth's Convent

Girls from St Elizabeth's Convent

There was a buzz in the air at St Mary's  College in Twickenham this morning,  as around 4,000 schoolchildren from across the UK waited for the arrival of Pope Benedict. As his limousine turned into the piazza, a huge cheer went up from flag-waving pupils from the local borough of Richmond on Thames. Accompanied by an entourage of bishops and officials, Pope Benedict paused on the steps of the college chapel to wave at the crowds, before going inside for his first engagement of the day - morning prayer with members of religious congregations.

When he emerged after the service there were squeals of delight as the Popemobile came to collect the Holy Father and take him into the Sports Field where thousands of children were waiting for the start of the Great Assembly. As the Popemobile circled the ground,  the children sang 'Siahamba - We are walking in the Light of God'.  when the Pope arrived on stage, Joseph Cullen's Papal Fanfare was played by a brass band comprising pupils from the London Oratory and Cardinal Vaughn Memorial School.

Pope Benedict began the Assembly with the Sign of the Cross. He was then welcomed by Siobhan Bellot, President of St Mary's Students Union, and Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP, chair of the Catholic Education Service.  There was a presentation of gifts by English students:  Aisosa Osazuwa from St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School in Salford; Ellie Smith from St John Plessington Catholic College, Salford; and Kimbery Nguyen from Bishop Challoner School, Westminster; Scottosh students: Daniel Danning from Our Lady's High School, Motherwell; Marie Claire Davidson from St Steven's High School, GLasgow and John James Galbraith from Castlebay School on the Isle of Barra.; Welsh students: Naida Molinari from Ven Enwrd Primary School, Shotton; James Crowney-Richards from St Teilo's Primary School and Rhian Spillar, Head Girl at Cardinal Newman School, Cardiff.

The Gospel Choir from Maria Fidelis Convent School in Somers Town, London, then sang I Will Wait. The choir ewas recently named Secondaty School Choir of the Year by the BBC Songs of Praise.

A highlight of the service was a satellite link between Holy Father Primary School, Plymouth and children from a school they support in the Gambia,west Africa, the St John Vianney School.

The choir of the Holy Rosary and St Annes Catholic Promary School in Leeds then sang Jubilate Dea and Ave Maria, accompanied by the bras band from the London Oratory and Cardianl Vaughan Memorial School.

Pope Benedict inaugurated the Jhn Paul II Foundation for Sport before giving his address. To read the full text see:

After the service ended, and groups began leaving, many children said how much they had enjoyed the event. Theresa Mortlock from St Theresa's Convent School in Twickenham summed it up saying: "It was just brilliant, mind-blowing. A once-in-a-lifetime experience."  Conor Davis, 12,  who had come down from Yorkshire with his school, said: "I will never forget the things I have heard and seen today."

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