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Pope Benedict comes to Cofton Park
The Pope
The Pope arrives in the UK on Thursday 16 September

For Catholics in the Midlands, Pope Benedict's visit to Cofton Park will be their best chance to see him during his state visit.

In many ways the Beatification Mass for John Henry Newman is the climax of his visit.

Coach loads of pilgrims will greet him as he takes the Cardinal one step further on his journey to sainthood.

Many will doubtless remember Coventry in 1982: the scene of another memorable papal celebration.

Among the many pilgrims present at Cofton Park will be Catholics from the East-Midlands wide Nottingham Diocese.

MARGARET EADES

pilgrim

Margaret was brought up in an extremely anti-Catholic Protestant family in Newcastle. Ironically, the greater their hostility, the more she became interested. She remembers, as a teenager, going along to the library to research Catholicism, and struggling to read Cardinal Newman's account of his own conversion from the Anglican Church.

Yet, in deference to her family's objections, Margaret forced herself to forget about the idea of becoming a Catholic for a full 40 years. It was a chance meeting with a friend, and an invitation to play the organ at a Catholic vigil that changed all that.

Now a worshipper at St Mary's, Derby, Margaret's finally allowed herself to follow the faith she'd become convinced was right for her: a choice not made easier by the fact that her son's just become an Anglican priest.

And as for the Pope's visit: as Newman's famous hymn "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" had a hand in confirming her certainty, she's understandably excited about attending the Beatification ceremonies at Cofton Park.

SHAUN REID

Shaun Reid

Describing himself as a cradle Catholic, Shaun had a Catholic education, and despite the usual heated student debates as a teenager, grew up to marry a Catholic girl, and continue to be a loyal church-goer. He recalls that the two of them loved the changes to church services brought in by Vatican 2. They are, of course, the services in use at his current Parish of St Albans, which takes in the Church on Oakwood.

He was at Coventry for the 1982 Papal visit, and though this time the Pope has been invited by the State, Shaun still considers there's an important pastoral side to the four days.

A keen ecumenist himself, Shaun's happy to see that time's been built into the packed schedule for meetings with people of other denominations and other faiths. That way, he feels, lies reconciliation: a message not just for the UK, but for the whole world.

RONNIE SMITH

pilgrim

A Scot from a staunch Catholic background, Ronnie will tell you he's from a tradition where the first time a newborn goes outside, it's to be baptised.

From a no-option induction into his faith at school and home, he's migrated to the kind of voluntary assent that leaves him unable to imagine life on other terms.

He, too, is a regular at Derby's St Albans.

He's another ecumenist, though, who has happily prayed in Mosques, is glad that Pope Benedict will be meeting other faith leaders, and quotes the Scottish adage that we're all from the same father.

He, too, was there in Coventry in '82. As a steward he was instructed to keep his back to the Pope, and keep his gaze on the crowd. But who, he asks, would resist turning their head when the Pope passes within a few feet. He didn't! "I sneaked a look: my skin was tingling."

KARAN O'CONNOR

pilgrim

Karen was brought up a Catholic by her Irish mother and part-Irish father -until the death of her mother meant that she was raised from 7 by her Grandmother. It was a strict upbringing, not least where her faith was concerned. Made to go to church as a youngster, Karen took teenage time-out only to return to Catholicism as her elected way of life. You'll find her worshipping at St George's and The Holy Spirit in Normanton.

She's an admirer of Pope Benedict, seeing him as willing to confront controversy, and although she actually gained an audience with him in Rome last September, is keen to seize the chance to see him in the Midlands.

Why not just relax and watch him on TV? Truth be told she like pilgrimages - the atmosphere, the emotion. She's been on four already this year. In the scheme of things a coach trip to Cofton Park's no trouble - no trouble at all.

MARIA NEADS

Maria Neades

Maria's father was of Irish descent and she attributes her Catholicism to him. His wife, her mum, converted when she met him and all four of the children were brought up in the faith.

You were made to go to church, she recalls, but you did feel part of a family.

Teenage rebellion, she now thinks, was partly fuelled by boredom. The church then wasn't as savvy at keeping children engaged.

Having returned, Maria's more involved than ever - a member of the Parish council at St Albans, and proud to feel she's helping to represent the parish in going along to Cofton Park.

For her there's "something electrifying about all those people being together". And although she was at Coventry in 1982, she was only 12 and has little recollection of it. This time she's hoping to feel a more spiritual response to the celebrations.




SEE ALSO
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