Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, enthusiastically discussed September’s papal visit in response to a journalist’s question at a Mass and Lecture to mark the 2010 World Communications Day. The address was given on 4 May at Allen Hall – the Diocese of Westminster’s seminary for trainee priests.
Pope has a “clear inspired understanding of humanity”
“The last visit of a Pope was the chief pastor of the Catholic Church coming to visit the Catholic community to celebrate its sacraments and strengthen them in faith. This is quite different. The first images of this visit will be the Queen and Pope Benedict. This has never been seen before, so it is a continuation, if you like, of that healing of an ancient tension. And here is the Pope invited by the monarch to address the people. And he is a Pope with a vision that is so deeply rooted in a clear inspired understanding of humanity that he will know how to speak to a European capital city – a world capital city – in which so many different influences are found, so many different faiths ebb and flow, and so much misunderstanding exists about the possibilities around religious belief. So this visit is being planned and can be unpacked in a way quite different from the last and a way that can engage people.
An inspiring and inclusive visit
“From some points of view, you find this a bit surprising… But here’s the Pope and he’s here Thursday, Friday, Saturday and a bit of Sunday. One of those days – Friday – he will not celebrate Mass publicly. You think, ‘well popes celebrate Mass’, he will not celebrate Mass publicly on Friday because the Friday of the programme is a day in which he reaches out and wants to be inclusive. So there’s the educational aspect in the morning and then a vitally important interfaith initiative which actually will be focused on leadership in the community, not so much on interfaith dialogue, but how does faith energise these leaders in our society? And that’s what the Catholic Church wants to be seen to do, to bring leaders who are inspired by faith together to explore that dynamic between leadership maybe in the City, in industry, in the Health Service and wherever it might be. That leadership with the inspiration of faith.
“And then he’ll speak from Westminster Hall in possibly the most important address of the whole visit. In that historic setting which captures so much of the history of this country, which poignantly is the place where Thomas More was condemned to death. He will address civic society, and I’m quite sure will start at the point at which everybody can enter. And he will encourage, he’ll invite, he will as you were try to cast a bit of light – but it will not be a proselytising act at all. And then from there he goes to Westminster Abbey, another unbelievably iconic place where you’ve got the two Queens, and he will visit that tomb and stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. So there will be prayer in the middle of this day in which he’s reaching out right across our society. And then on Saturday it becomes a bit more centred on the Catholic community as he celebrates Mass in Westminster Cathedral and then we hope an evening open-air Vigil of prayer before the Beatification on the Sunday.”
Full audio available on the Papal visit to the UK website here: