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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Monday, 20 September 2010 14:25 UK
Pilgrims reflect on Birmingham visit by Pope Benedict

Video: BBC Midlands Today reporter Kevin Reade travels with Staffordshire pilgrims to the big day in Birmingham

Thousands of Catholics from around Staffordshire made the pilgrimage down to Birmingham for the papal visit on Sunday, 19 September, 2010.

For many of them, it was their one and only chance to see Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pope concluded his visit to the UK with the beatification of Cardinal Newman at the city's Cofton Park.

Cardinal John Henry Newman, who founded the Birmingham Oratory, is now set to become England's first non martyred Catholic saint for hundreds of years.

Historic occasion

It may have been a rainy night, but that didn't stop local pilgrims making the short journey down the M6 to Birmingham.

Several coachloads of parishioners left from Holy Trinity Church in Newcastle-under-Lyme to join up with over 50,000 other pilgrims who were gathering in Cofton Park.

Two of those, Father Phillip Griffin and Barbara Davies, spoke to BBC Radio Stoke about the historic occasion.

Father Griffin admitted that it wasn't all plain sailing, but everyone got there in the end with a little bit of divine intervention: "There were a few technical hitches, I'm afraid, like some of the coaches didn't turn up by the time we were supposed to have gone.

"But, of course, as people of prayer, we knew it would all sort itself out in the end, and luckily it did," said Father Griffin.

Papal visit pilgrims
A rainy start, but there were still smiles all round

Looking for reassurance

Barbara Davies said that the visit helped her because she feels that being a Christian is sometimes difficult in modern Britain.

"I think it's very hard these days to be a Christian in this country and not to be ridiculed.

"We're made fun of constantly and you know, we can put up with a bit of that but it's very nice to be reassured from our Father," she said.

Father Phillip Griffin thought that the visit had helped the British public to have a better understanding of the Pope himself.

He said: "I hope that people have now had the chance to hear him rather than what people have had to say about him.

"I hope he came across as being a person; a gentle, prayerful, faithful person who was concerned not just for the Catholic Church but for our country and society."

Memorable event

BBC Stoke & Staffordshire's Jozef Lopuszynski was another of the thousands who went on Sunday, starting out at 4.30 a.m. from St Patrick's Church near Wolverhampton.

"As had been accurately predicted, it was raining heavily, but at 6.20, a large convoy of us in double decker buses set off and headed via Walsall to Birmingham. The rain continued as we all walked the long walk from the ex-Longbridge Car Plant to the Papal Mass venue.

"In great anticipation, we all waited for the Holy Father's Dauphin helicopter to arrive - at which point the rain eased off somewhat. When the Popemobile entered a tremendous joyful cheer went up, and almost immediately the rain stopped!

"There was a group of us reporting from a platform very close to the path of the Popemobile. As the vehicle drove past, the Holy Father turned to us and gave us all a Blessing.

"The Beatification was a very moving and memorable event, with much Latin and some absolutely superb singing from the choir.
All the parishioners from the deanery - which includes Wombourne - have all expressed joy at having been to the occasion... and many who had decided not to go have been expressing their regret at their decision."

Beatification ceremony

Paying tribute to Cardinal Newman, the pontiff said the beatification was on an "auspicious" day.

"His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance to Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world," he said.

The crowds cheered as one of their local heroes, Cardinal Newman - now The Blessed Henry Newman -, was put firmly on the path to full sainthood by Pope Benedict XVI.

If you were at the Pope's Mass in Birmingham we'd love to hear from you. E-mail us to send in your stories and memories of the day.

Your memories

I was working at Crofton Park from 2.30am - 6.00pm on Sunday. The coaches started arriving as early as 4am and as all of the 650 coaches arrived, everyone looked very anxious to see the Pope.

I had a lot of people waving at me as i was stood there in my Hi-Vi jacket in the rain!! Everyone looked very cheerful and friendly.

When everyone started to cheer I knew the pope had arrived even though I couldn't see anything. When the choir started to sing it was harmonic and sounded beautiful!! The atmosphere was amazing.

Beckie xx

Look back at Pope's visit
19 Sep 10 |  People & Places
Profile: Pope Benedict XVI
25 Dec 09 |  Europe
Pilgrims prepare for papal visit
07 Sep 10 |  Religion & Ethics


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