Lord Patten of Barnes, the Prime Minister’s personal representative for the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI, visited Birmingham on September 19, writes Peter Jennings.
He viewed preparations for the Papal Mass and Beatification of Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park. Lord Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, was accompanied by Councillor Alan Rudge, Cabinet minister for equalities and human resources, and senior officials from the city of Birmingham, West Midlands Police and other agencies, during the visit on Friday July 9 .
Councillor Alan Rudge, tasked with overseeing the city council’s role during the papal visit, said: “The papal visit is a momentous occasion for The city of Birmingham and for the West Midlands. We have a world-class reputation for hosting events and will be delighted to welcome our friends from across the region, the country and the world.”
Lord Patten toured the leafy environs of Cofton Park in glorious sunshine before travelling across the city to the Oratory House in Edgbaston, opened by Cardinal Newman in 1852 and where he died on August 11 1890, aged 89.
At the Birmingham Oratory, Lord Patten met the Provost, Fr Richard Duffield, and Canon Patrick Browne, administrator of St Chad’s Cathedral, local coordinator for the papal visit to the archdiocese of Birmingham.
Lord Patten, a Catholic, was shown Cardinal Newman’s room and private chapel dedicated to St Francis de Sales, patron of writers and journalists. He also visited St Philip’s chapel, which is now being made into a shrine to Blessed Cardinal Newman, founder of the English Oratory of St Philip Neri.
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make a short private pilgrimage to the Oratory House after the Mass at Cofton Park. The Pope will then be driven to St Mary’s College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary, for a private visit during which he will address the bishops of England, Wales and Scotland in the college chapel. It was there that John Henry Newman was confirmed as a Catholic by Bishop (later Cardinal) Nicholas Wiseman on November 1, the Feast of All Saints, 1845.
Afterwards Lord Patten, the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, visited Birmingham Council House where he gave interviews to the local media.
During his interviews London Patten disclosed that two Popemobiles would be used by Benedict XVI during the four-day state visit, starting on September 16. Lord Patten said that he hoped it would be possible for Pope Benedict to use a Popemobile for part of his journey from Cofton Park to the Oratory House, Edgbaston.
Meanwhile, the following extract was included in the newsletter of the Birmingham Oratory on July 18: “The Pope’s Visit – When our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, comes to the Oratory on September 19, straight after the beatification, he will be the first pilgrim to pray in the new shrine that will be in St Philip’s Chapel.”