Parish representatives have been gathering across England and Wales to receive paintings and candles that were blessed by Pope Benedict XVI to support the legacy of his visit to the UK.
On 8 December, Bishop Peter Doyle celebrated a special evening Mass in Northampton Cathedral for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in thanksgiving for the recent visit of the Holy Father. In his homily Bishop Doyle said:
"Like Mary we have been chosen and called to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in the presence of Jesus. That call to holiness was a major theme of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in September. The Holy Father urged us to see that this vocation does not separate us from the world but encourages us to engage more fully in the world, bringing the grace of God into all aspects of our lives. He taught that religion has a large part to play in our society and that all people of faith have an important and necessary contribution to make to the common good. The Holy Father called us to enter into dialogue confidently with other churches, other faiths and the state."
He added: "Springing from the motto of Blessed John Henry Newman - 'heart speaks unto heart' - he wants us to speak from the heart of Jesus to the hearts of all people. The Holy Father's visit has given us more confidence to do just that. It has also helped to give fresh impetus to our identity as Catholics, as experienced by ourselves and seen by others. I know that my brother Bishops want to strengthen this identity which is rooted in the gift of faith and which is the well-spring of much generosity."
When distributing the blessed items to parish representatives the Bishop encouraged them to be beacons of hope and sent them forth with this blessing, "May God, who sent his Son into the world as the Light that shines in the dark, help you to bring his light to the world."
Meanwhile in Hexham and Newcastle Diocese the blessed candles and pictures were distributed to every parish in the diocese on World Mission Sunday, 24 October. Two parish representatives from each parish attended a special liturgy at St Mary's Cathedral in Newcastle with the message that we all need to be the light of Christ for others every day. During the liturgy Bishop Seamus Cunningham presented parish representatives the blessed items to take back to their churches. Every time there is a parish meeting - Parish
Council, Journey in Faith, catechetical meetings, prayer groups and other gatherings, parishioners are invited to display the picture and light the candle.
An audio recording of the meditation on 'The Light of the World' given by Deacon Peter Jones at the Cathedral distribution evening is available at: http://rcdhn.org.uk/evangel2/lightworld.php
Since the distribution one painting and candle has been used at RCIA Group meetings of St Mary's Cathedral and St Andrew's in Newcastle. Karen Burbridge, Co-ordinator of RCIA Group in Newcastle City Centre said: "It has been such a privilege to be able to use the lovely candle and picture as a focal point during our RCIA meetings in Newcastle. RCIA is for people enquiring about the Catholic Faith and our enquirers were indeed fascinated by the picture, and moved by the metaphor it creates of Jesus knocking at the door of our heart and bringing us light - they were also enthralled to be in some way connected to the recent Papal Visit."
The 3,000 blessed items were distributed to every diocese earlier this year by the Home Mission Desk of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales working in partnership with McCrimmons publishers www.mccrimmons.com/.
A reflection sheet is available from: www.thepapalvisit.org.uk/legacy