In the run up to the Opening Ceremony of the 30th Olympic Games, Catholic parishes across London are engaging in final preparations to welcome all 205 competing nations to the city by offering big screen live coverage of Olympic events, simple hospitality, family festivals and the opportunity for prayerful reflection and Sacramental renewal.
The hub of activity will take place to the East of the Olympic Park at St Francis of Assisi Catholic church, Stratford in Brentwood Diocese and at Our Lady and St Catherine of Siena Catholic church in Bow in the Diocese of Westminster.
On the evening of Wednesday 25th July, as the first Olympic football matches take place across Britain, a Missa Cantata (Sung Mass) in the Extraordinary Form will be offered in Bow for Olympic Peace. At the same time, Pax Christi’s Peace Icon will be welcomed into the church in Stratford where it will reside throughout the Olympic Games. Several Masses will be celebrated daily in each parish with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction taking place every daytime in Stratford and every evening in Bow. Both parishes will offer simple hospitality suites where visitors can receive refreshments and a warm welcome. From Saturday 28th July hospitality will also be offered every afternoon for the duration of the Games by Notre Dame de France church beside Leicester Square.
The first of several community festivals during the Games takes place on the evening of Friday 27th at the international parish of St Francis. Those attending are invited to wear national dress as they watch the Opening Ceremony together.
On Saturday 28th, Youth 2000 will host a day for young adults called ‘Sustain’ at St Margaret’s church, Canning Town close to the Olympic Park. This day consists of worship, teaching, faith sharing and overnight Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. That same afternoon at 2:30pm, Archbishop Vincent Nichols will be main celebrant at a Mass of Celebration for the 30th Olympic Games in Westminster Cathedral. This will be attended by international archbishops, a number of national Olympic chaplains plus past and present Olympic athletes. Seating is to be unreserved to allow everyone who wishes to the possibility of attending. On the Sunday many national Olympic teams will celebrate Mass inside the Olympic Village chapel with some teams choosing to gather together with visiting family members and friends in Catholic churches local to the Olympic Park.
The week beginning Monday 30th sees the start of the international 13 day Joshua Camp at St Bonaventure’s School, Forest Gate. Taizé evenings and a healing service are also being provided for visitors and local residents in East London.
Speaking about the London Games, the Holy Father said: “The Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world, in which athletes from many different nations participate, and thus they have great symbolic value. For this reason the Catholic Church looks to the Olympics with particular sympathy and interest. Let us pray that, according to God’s will, the London Olympics may be a true experience of brotherhood among the peoples of the Earth.”
James Parker, Catholic Executive Coordinator for the 2012 Games, said of the preparations: “We don’t know how much engagement is likely to take place from national or international visitors. However, we are ready to welcome the world to our nation and to bear witness to Christ’s love, and above all His peace.”