Hyde Park Papal Visit

Saturday 18th September 2010.   Prayer Vigil with Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament led by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Hyde Park, London.

Back in June, I was asked by the Archdiocese of Southwark to provide 17 young people to represent the Archdiocese and all the young people in the Archdiocese in a banner procession as part of the Hyde Park Vigil.   This was a great opportunity to select from the 46 young people who have signed up to attend World Youth Day next year in Madrid from the Deanery of Kingston upon Thames, and kick start our year of preparations with meeting the Holy Father.

Accompanying me were Anne from St Joseph’s (and one of our leaders for World Youth Day), Dan, Tony, Rachel and Johvitta (from OLI), Charles, Felix and Oli (from St Pius X), and Joelle, Sean, Emily, Josie, Megan, Jess, William, Calum, Megan and Simonne (from St Joseph’s).  

Having met at Surbiton Station at 11am, we travelled via Waterloo to Marble Arch, where we queued to gain entrance to Hyde Park.   The weather was warm, and the sun was out, which added to the air of carnival, which I think would sum up the atmosphere in the place.   At 4pm, we lined up in procession.   We were the third group of diocesan banner bearers behind Westminster and Liverpool, with the other diocesan banners behind us, along with representatives from HCPT, other Catholic organisations, and a banner provided from each parish in the land – quite some procession I can tell you.   We moved forwards to cheers and applause from the crowds gathered, entered the Gold Circle (special seats reserved in the front of the stage for the youth) and proceeded to enter the stage to meet a line up of the bishops of England, Wales and Scotland.   It was a great honour to meet them all and shake their hands, and when you turned away from them and got a “stage eyed view” across the 80,000 strong crowd, I must say, it brought a lump to the throat.  

In the remaining time before the Pope actually arrived, we were entertained with music, dance and drama.   Barry and Margaret Mizen spoke about their son Jimmy’s life who was so brutally murdered 2 years ago just after his 16th birthday, and how their faith has helped them during the past two years and continues to do so – believe me, there was not a dry eye in sight as everyone rose at the end of their talk to give them a standing ovation.

Finally, on the big screens, the journey of the Holy Father as he departed St Peter’s Residence in Vauxhall was shown as he wound his way through the streets of London, via The Mall and Buckingham Palace, Constitution Hill and finally to the Park. Every time he was shown, cheers went up from the crowd, as we were entertained by the singing group, The Priests (who were totally fantastic).   Estimates are that some quarter of a million people lined the route, demonstrating once again that this much loved Pope and the historic nature of the visit, showed all that the negativity and ignorant reporting from some quarters of the press leading up to the visit, was just that: ignorant!

The Pope arrived to rapturous applause and flag waiving, and sitting only 18 rows from the altar, we had not only a second to none view of the Sanctuary, but could almost touch the Pope Mobile as it circuited the young people in the Gold Circle.    The liturgy was beautiful and very moving, and the time of Exposition was dramatic in its silence.  In fact, so silent was the air, that you could actually hear the ducks on the pond (the first time that day)!   As the liturgy closed and the Pope made his way off stage, we were left with a feeling of warmth, joy and elation that can only have been experienced at a Papal gathering.  A gathering of young and old, Catholic and non catholic, male and female, just about every combination of people you could imagine, all brought together with one purpose in mind: seeing the Holy Father and sharing a common bond of Christian friendship.

Andrew Richardson

Video footage compiled by one of the young people who attended this event can be found below:

Video 1

Video 2