Pope Benedict XVI was presented with a copy of the swiftly produced but handsome and comprehensive official record of his state visit to Britain by Peter Jennings, its author and editor, at the end of the pontiff’s weekly audience in the Vatican on Wednesday December 15 2010.
A smiling Holy Father held the second impression of the book, Benedict XVI and Blessed John Henry Newman, The State Visit – The Official Record, and spent several moments looking at a number of the 250 pictures in the book. They chronicle his historic and unforgettable four-day Apostolic Journey during September 2010.
Pope Benedict XVI was then presented with a prayer card for the canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman, produced by the Catholic Truth Society.
The Holy Father took great interest in the prayer card. He looked carefully at the reproduction of a photograph signed by Cardinal Newman, then aged 82, at the Oratory House on March 11 1883, for a visitor, and then turned the card over and studied the prayer. Before the start of the general audience held in the Paul VI Hall, Peter Jennings presented a copy of the book to Dr Alberto Gasbarri, head of the Vatican delegation which organised the Apostolic Journey made by Pope Benedict XVI and took him to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham, during Thursday to Sunday, September 16 to 19.
Seated in the front row Mr Jennings had the opportunity to give copies of the prayer card to Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, and Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The British Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, who contributed to the book, graciously hosted a special reception at his residence on December 13 to mark the publication of the official record. Ambassador Campbell spoke warmly about the book and in particular the contribution made by Mr Jennings not only to the book and, more widely, to Catholic journalism, but also by his public relations work in the forwarding of the Newman Cause since the mid-1970s.
Mr Jennings is press secretary to Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and to the Archdiocese of Birmingham, roles he also filled under Archbishop Vincent Nichols during the latter’s time as Archbishop of Birmingham 2000-2009.
Ambassador Campbell paid tribute to Stella Jennings. Mrs Jennings, who was also present, had done “a remarkable job”, the ambassador said, in securing more than 30 post-visit reflections in time for the book to be published and launched in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday October 9, the Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman. This was less than three weeks after the visit.
More than 40 guests, including senior members of the Roman Curia, attended the memorable two-hour occasion.