“Truly the Lord’s Kingdom is already in our midst!”
These were Pope Benedict’s first words at the open-air mass in Glasgow on 16 September.
Tens of thousands of worshippers had been pouring in, astounding commentators with
the joyful atmosphere that “many of us don’t associate with religion”. The four-day
papal visit saw the biggest gatherings of Catholics since Make Poverty History in
Edinburgh in July 2005.
I attended the Hyde Park Vigil two days later, carrying the Pax Christi banner in
the procession of Catholic organisations. It was very affirming to have so many people
come up and say they supported Pax Christi, Columban Justice and Peace and the National
Justice and Peace Network (NJPN). Some had been at the NJPN’s July Conference on
Food, which is highlighted on pages 4 and 5 of this newsletter. At Hyde Park, we
celebrated the Catholic Church in Britain and throughout the world.
A personal highlight was a presentation on large screens, produced by CAFOD and called,
‘A heart that sees, a heart that serves, a heart that seeks justice’. It gave out
facts that we can be proud off: ‘The Catholic community supports the poorest, most
disadvantaged people, regardless of creed or race, in almost 200 countries. A quarter
of the help for people living with HIV and AIDS is delivered by the Catholic Church.’
After the presentation, the 80,000 strong crowd was invited to ‘Stand Up Against
Poverty’, joining other gatherings internationally lobbying for progress at the Millennium
Development Goals Review Conference at the UN, which was about to convene. We stood
and said together:
‘We stand with millions of people around the world.
We stand to show our commitment to tackle poverty and injustice.
We stand to say to the world’s leaders: Keep your promises.’
A photo was taken of this special moment, which was brought to the UN by Cardinal
Peter Turkson, Head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who was in Hyde
Park. Can the promises made ten years ago, to make real progress to overcome poverty
by 2015 for the poorest throughout the world be met? We believed it in Hyde Park.
Another highlight of the papal visit was seeing the Dean of Westminster Abbey point
out to Pope Benedict the statue of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador above the
Abbey’s Great West Door. And at Twickenham, the Columbans were represented at the
gathering of religious where the pope expressed Vatican appreciation for “the Church’s
great missionary work”.
Pope Benedict’s visit contained much that affirmed the Justice and Peace mission
of the Church and our centrespread picks up on relevant statements. Note the commmunique
between the Vatican and UK government which talks of future collaboration on poverty
and climate change. The mission to build God’s Kingdom here on Earth continues.
Please note our biennial appeal for funds to keep Vocation for Justice going. With
our next issue, the newsletter will be celebrating its 25th anniversary!
Pax Christi and the Catholic Association for Racial Justice at Hyde Park’s Vigil