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Papal Visit 2010 live blog: Central London

Welcome to our live blog of the Pope’s events in central London on Friday, 17 September 2010. We’ll be providing links to the most interesting content from around the web and providing up-to-the-minute coverage of what’s happening. Don’t forget to send us your own pictures, stories and video!

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Recap: Twickenham live blog
Recap: Bellahouston live blog
Recap: Edinburgh live blog
Itinerary for the trip
Full Papal Visit 2010 coverage

19:29 That’s everything for today; the Catholic Herald live blog will be back at 9:00 tomorrow morning, for the Pope’s meetings with the David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Harriet Harman, and Her Majesty the Queen.

19:28 Mgr Mark Langham, an official at the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, said:

The message was a rallying call, a strong challenge that complemented what the Pope said in Westminster Hall. In Westminster Hall he stressed the role of religion in public life and in the abbey the message was that we have to do this together. The visual significance is powerfully moving: to see the sign of peace, the Gospels and praying together. That is going to have a strong effect on ecumenism, because ecumenism isn’t just about theology – it works at every level.

19:27 The Catholic Herald’s Mark Greaves:

I was behind the entire bishops’ conference of England and Wales – there was a sea of zuchettas. It’s rare to have all those zuchettas together in Westminster Abbey.

The sign of peace felt very warm and it had a strong effect on the congregation – the atmosphere was quite sober up till then – and the bishops in front of me enthusiastically shook hands and slapped each other on the back.

Processing out of the cathedral, the Pope gingerly stepped down the steps with Mgr Marini guiding him down. He was looking slightly fragile. There was spontaneous clapping and a burst of warmth at the sight of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope.

19:27 As they now leave the Abbey the Holy Father seems to be in warm conversation with Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster; the sound of the bells ringing is loud and joyous, and the jubilant crowd waves Papal flags, and banners.

19:21 The procession passes through the Rood Screen on its way out, with loud applause for both Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams; the Pope waves, and the Archbishop makes the sign of the cross to the congregation.

19:16 The concluding prayer is being read simultaneously by both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, including the blessing. A fitting end to a prayer service dominated by the theme of Christian unity.

19:14 All My Hope On God is Founded, by Robert Bridges (1844-1930) and Herbert Howells (1892-1983) is now being sung, as the processional cross is once again brought forward in preparation for the exit procession.

19:12 the Pope and the Archbishop both kneeling before the tomb of St Edward, to pray for Unity, as both of them read prayers for that intention.

19:07 The Lord’s Prayer, followed by the choir singing a setting Ubi Caritas et amor by the 20th Century composer Maurice Durufle (1902-1986), as the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury appear to be putting incense on a freestanding censer before an altar in front of the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, penultimate Anglo-Saxon king of England.

19:05 Bidding prayers, for partnership between the civil authorities and Churches, for the Queen, for the “shared vision” of all the Churches in the British Islands, their cooperation in the mission and ministry and their welcome and openness to all people; for the advances toward unity, the commitment of all churches to unity, for the leaders of the UK, the Queen (again), the government, elected representatives, and “all who serve our communities”, by a variety of lay and clerical readers.

19:00 Dr Hall, having censed the Altar, now censes the Pope and the Archbishop, and the assembled prelature, including several splendidly clad bishops of the Eastern churches.

18:58 The Choir of Westminster Abbey sings the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), also called the “Canticle of Mary”, by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924).

18:56 Dr Wiliams says that Christians have “diverse views” on the roles of the Pope, but also refers to Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint (“That they might be one”). “We pray that your time with us will be a further step for all of us into the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection”.

18:54 Archbishop Williams prays that the Pope’s time in Britain may help to renew the “hope and energy that we need as Christains”, and recalls Pope St Gregory’s chosen title, “Servant of the Servants of God”, and speaks of the “authority of service” as the only authority in the church.

18:53 Unemployment is a “scourge and a threat” and “comes to seem like a loss of dignity and meaning in life”, says Archbishop Williams, and of the need to rediscover “the dignity of labour and leisure”, and calls the Pope’s encyclicals “profound and elegant”.

18:51 Dr Williams now talking about the history of Westminster Abbey; currently he’s praising the Papacy and the “inspiration and legacy” of Pope Gregory the Great. Meanwhile Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic reports on Twitter that there are protesters outside, amongst whom are some evangelical Christians, mostly from Northern Ireland.

18:48 The end of the Pope’s homily:

May the Risen Lord strengthen our efforts to mend the ruptures of the past and to meet the challenges of the present with hope in the future which, in his providence, he holds out to us and to our world. Amen.

18:47 The Pope refers to those present as “dear friends” and says that they are all aware of the challenges and disappointments and blessings on “the ecumenical journey”. The Pope also insists that fidelity to the gospel must be without “intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age”.

18:44 The Pope’s has just thanked Archbishop Williams again, and is talking about ecumenism, and the challenge of unity.

This year, as we know, marks the hundredth anniversary of the modern ecumenical movement, which began with the Edinburgh Conference’s appeal for Christian unity as the prerequisite for a credible and convincing witness to the Gospel in our time. In commemorating this anniversary, we must give thanks for the remarkable progress made towards this noble goal through the efforts of committed Christians of every denomination. At the same time, however, we remain conscious of how much yet remains to be done. In a world marked by growing interdependence and solidarity, we are challenged to proclaim with renewed conviction the reality of our reconciliation and liberation in Christ, and to propose the truth of the Gospel as the key to an authentic and integral human development. In a society which has become increasingly indifferent or even hostile to the Christian message, we are all the more compelled to give a joyful and convincing account of the hope that is within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to present the Risen Lord as the response to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our time.

18:41 A reading from St Mark’s Gospel, 10:35-45, about James and John, about their request to Jesus that they be allowed to sit beside him when he comes into glory. Jesus tells them that “whoever wishes to become great among you must be slave to all”. Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams have both just kissed the Gospel book, which has been returned to the altar. The Pope issues a brief homily.

18:36 A reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 2:5-11,  followed by “O thou who camest from above”, a hymn by Charles Wesley, who with his brother John founded the Methodist movement. Archbishops Vincent Nichols and John Sentamu have been placed next to each other.

18:31 Pope says he has come “as a pilgrim from Rome” to pray at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor. The Archbishop offers the Sign of Peace. Both he and the Pope sit down to listen to the choir singing Psalm 138, “I will give thanks to thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: even before gods will I sing praise unto thee.”

18:29 The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes the Pope “on behalf of the Christian communities of Great Britain”. Dr Williams refers to the history of Westminster Abbey and the “unbroken tradition” there, and wishes the Pope well on his visit.

18:25 The choir sang the words:

The glory of the Lord has risen upon us.

Let us rejoice and sing God’s praise for ever.

Glory be. Alleluia.

Following this, the congregation sings Christ is Made the Sure Foundation, based on a 7th Century Latin hymn, and set to a tune by Purcell: appropriately, the tune is called “Westminster Abbey”, as the procession makes its way up the nave of the Abbey.

18:19 The choir of Westminster sang, the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury vest in the Jericho Parlour, while the Procession of Church Leaders moves to the appointed place in the Sacrarium, or sanctuary. The Pope and the Archbishop, led by Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, prepare for the entrance procession. The Archbishop in his mitre, the Pope in a stole, but otherwise in the traditional Papal choir dress.

18:12 Having met Dr John Hall and read a prayer for peace, the Pope now meets the leaders of the various churches of the UK.

18:08 Liz Dodd reports:

Cheers and waving as the Pope drives past – crowds running down the street after the Popemobile.

18:07 Liz Dodd, who is being a complete heroine outside Westminster Abbey now:

Cardinals and other Religious filing into the Abbey as Big Ben strikes six – crowds are getting very excited!


18:05 Luke Coppen, the Editor of the Catholic Herald was in the Hall. He tweeted:

The speech went over well in the Hall. Good buzz as we wait for them to let us leave #papalvisit

18:00 Pope Benedict XVI was walking out with the Lord Great Chamberlain David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, the bearer of the white wand.

17:55 Baroness Hayman responded to the Pope’s speech. She is the Lord Speaker of the House. And the Holy Father has just greeted the prime ministers and is walking down the aisle of the Hall, smiling, to huge applause.

17:53Tying it up, the Pope spoke of the great relationship between Britain and the Holy See, calling for religious bodies to be allowed to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and convictions.

This overview of recent cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Holy See illustrates well how much progress has been made, in the years that have
passed since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, in promoting throughout the world the many core values that we share.I hope and pray that this relationship will continue to bear fruit, and that it will be mirrored in a growing acceptance of the need for dialogue and respect at every level of society between the world of reason and the world of faith.

I am convinced that, within this country too, there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with Britain’s long-standing tradition. For such cooperation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed.

The angels looking down on us from the magnificent ceiling of this ancient Hall remind us of the long tradition from which British Parliamentary democracy has evolved. They remind us that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us. And they summon us to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.

17:50 The Pope has just addressed the needs of the poor, especially in the developing world. “Where human lives are concerned, time is always short”.

In recent yearsit has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare. Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”. Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

17:46 He is calling for Catholics to be allowed to exercise their conscience in British public life.

There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. There are those who argue paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you therefore within your respective spheres of influence to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

17:45 Pope Benedict is echo-ing Archbishop Vincent Nichols and has used the words Faith and Reason, the key focus of his controversial 2005 Regensburg Address.

Religion in other words is not a problem for legislators to solve but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern over the increasing marginalisation of religion particularly of Christianity that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.

17:44 Liz Dodd:

Melissa, 6, is outside Westminster Abbey and can’t wait to wave at the Pope ‘when he comes past in his van’. Stephanie, 11, hopes the Pope ‘will talk to young people and give them advice about religion’.

17:43 Pope Benedict XVI

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethicalfoundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves.

17:39Pope Benedict XVI

In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.

17:35 Pope Benedict has started his Westminster Speech. It is forthright, strong and to the point. He is addressing the “relationship of what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God”, in other words “the proper place of religious belief within the political process”.

17:32 A Franciscan, a Dominican and a Benedictine discussed the relationship with the Holy See, here, the Speaker of the House John Bercow says.

Sounds like the beginning of a religious joke.

17:32 The intrepid Liz Dodd:

Kaitlin, 13, is waiting to see the Popemobile in Parliament Sq. ‘The atmosphere is very exciting, but it’s calm, too’. She’s reading at the Prayer Vigil tomorrow and says she’s nervous but looking forward to it!

17:30 The Holy Father has arrived in Westminster Hall.

17:30 During his trip to France in 2008, Benedict XVI addressed France’s famous “laïcité positive”, the separation of Church and State which allows for a positive dialogue between religion and the state.

Many people, here in France as elsewhere, have reflected on the relations between Church and State. Indeed, Christ had already offered the basic principle for a just solution to the problem of relations between the political sphere and the religious sphere when, in answer to a question, he said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”.

While in the notoriously “godless” Czech Republic in 2009 he spoke about freedom and the search for truth.

Freedom seeks purpose: it requires conviction. True freedom presupposes the search for truth – for the true good – and hence finds its fulfilment precisely in knowing and doing what is right and just. Truth, in other words, is the guiding norm for freedom, and goodness is freedom’s perfection.

17:20 As veteran reporter John Allen Jr says in a piece for CNN: “The UK is, of course, hardly the first place Benedict has faced a tough crowd.”

When asked on the plane whether he was worried by the challenges he would face in Britain, the Holy Father said:

“I must say that I’m not worried, because when I went to France I was told: ‘This will be a most anticlerical country with strong anticlerical currents and with a minimum of faithful.’

“When I went to the Czech Republic it was said: ‘This is the most non-religious country in Europe and even the most anti-clerical’. So Western countries, all have, each in their own specific way, according to their own history, strong anticlerical or anti-Catholic currents, but they always also have a strong presence of faith. So in France and the Czech Republic I saw and experienced a warm welcome by the Catholic community, a strong attention from agnostics, who, however, are searching, who want to know, to find the values that advance humanity and they were very careful to see if they could hear something from me in this respect, and tolerance and respect for those who are anti-Catholic.

“Of course Britain has its own history of anti-Catholicism, this is obvious, but is also a country with a great history of tolerance. And so I’m sure on the one hand, there will be a positive reception from Catholics, from believers in general, and attention from those who seek as we move forward in our time, mutual respect and tolerance. Where there is anti-Catholicism I will go forward with great courage and joy.”

17:15 Claz Gomez is on Lambeth Bridge cheering on the Pope. She’s posted a picture.

17:07 There is a really solemn atmosphere in Westminster Hall. I’ve never seen it set up for a public event before, it’s packed with dignitaries and other members of civil society. Normally it’s an echoing cavern of a Hall.

17:05 Liz Dodd, an intrepid young Catholic reporting for us from Parliament Square

Just got to Parliament Square – filling up with a mixture of pilgrims and bemused city workers. So far only one protester, shouting lines from Monty Python’s Life of Brian through a loudspeaker! Sun is shining, lovely atmosphere. Expecting popemobile soon!

17:00 In his speech to civil society, Pope Benedict is expected to make points about religious liberty and expound on the place of religion in the public sphere. It is expected to be strong and direct.

16:50 Benedict XVI is ensconced in his meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury while members of civil society await him in Westminster Hall. Lions are sitting next to lambs, with the two former Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair sitting next to each other and Cherie Blair. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is sitting between William Hague and former Prime MInister John Major. Baroness Thatcher travelled to the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI last year with former editor of the Daily Telegraph and Catholic convert Charles Moore and the Catholic writer Paul Johnson.