Papal Visit (xiv) Hyde Park Vigil

Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park

Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park

Carrying banners, placards and flags, around 80,000 parishioners of all ages,  came to Hyde Park yesterday afternoon, for the Prayer Vigil with Pope Benedict. An estimated 20,000 more gathered to watch from the roads around the park.

One 150-strong group  walked from Holy Apostles in Pimlico to the park, singing hymns along the way. Before setting out they counted 38 different nationalities in their congregation.

As people made themselves comfortable in the park,  there were a series of performances on the stage reflecting the diversity of the Catholic  community, introduced by TV presenter Carol Vorderman an writer Frank Cottrell-Smith.  They included several dance troupes: Zywiec,  a London-based Polish song and dance troupe; Larondina,  a dance company for people with special needs; RISEtheatre which works with young people; More Than Dance, from the North East; The Doherty Academy and Brooks Academy - two Irish dance groups; and Romani Rad a group of Romany dancers.

After the performances there were hymns as representatives of Catholic organisations - among them HCPT, Pax Christi, SVP and scout groups- processed in with their banners. Then a presentation on the Catholic Church in Britain using film, drama, music and testimonies.

Margaret and Barry, parents of the murdered teenager Jimmy Mizen  gave a moving account of the day he died and why they had forgiven his killer. Barry said: "The person who killed my son released anger We must release peace." Margaret spoke of the support she had received from her parish and told parents to hold their children close to them and let them know they are loved.

Fr John Armitage, Vicar General from Brentwood gave a presentation on poverty and injustice and urged everyone to campaign to ensure that world goverments keep their pledges. "The Gospels are lessons in humanity: he said.

As the sun began to set there was a terrific build-up to the Pope's arrival, with images on giant screens showing his progress through the streets of London. The Priests, choirs and the New English Orchestra, directed by Nigel Swinford, gave a stirring rendition of Laudamus Te from Vivaldi's Glori, Lift Thine Eyes by Mendelssohn and several pieces from Handel's Messiah.

There was much cheering and waving of flags as the Popemobile  finally arrived and the Holy Father was welcomed by Archbishop Peter Smith. The liturgy began with Psalm 119. The Gospel was St Matthew's account of Jesus teaching the Beatitudes.  In his homily Pope Benedict reflected on the teachings on Cardinal Newman.  He said:"Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person. To read to full homily text, see:

After the homily, Pope Benedict lit a Paschal Candle, and the light was taken to parish representatives taking part in a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. As Adoration began there were a few minutes of almost total silence.

During the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament there was the Litany to the Sacred Heart,  Newman's prayer Radiating Christ, his Lead Kindly Light and Tantum Ergo. The vigil drew to a close with hymns and a beautiful rendition of the Irish blessing sung by Liam McNally.

To see the entire vigil visit:

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