Before the national Mass of Thanksgiving on the first anniversary of the papal visit on September 25 Archbishop Vincent Nichols addressed the seminarians of England and Wales gathered in Westminster Cathedral Hall, writes Peter Jennings.
Archbishop Nichols presented and read extracts from the message from the Bishops’ Conference of England Wales made public on the official anniversary of the papal visit.
Deacon Michael Glover, aged 25, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, responded on behalf of all the seminarians present.
He said: “Most Reverend Father, on behalf of the seminarians of England and Wales who are here, the formation staff from our venerable institutions and everyone else who finds themselves here today, I would like to thank you for those thought-provoking reflections on the papal visit to the United Kingdom. Thank you also for bringing us here together.
“When I was asked to say a few words, after an initial moment of panic, I took solace from a cup of tea which I drank from my ‘Heart Speaks unto Heart’ official papal visit mug. Then, reclining in my chair, I thought back to the events of last year.”
He continued: “One of the most profound moments for me, during the papal visit, was when we all met at Oscott after the Mass of beatification at Cofton Park. The whole shape and character of that last part of the visit had the sense of a family event. The bishops gathered around the Bishop of Rome and the seminarians gathered around their Holy Father.
“The footage of the Holy Father’s visit to Oscott and, in particular, the photograph with the seminarians on the front steps of Oscott, has had over 5,000 hits on YouTube. That is not quite as many as Susan Boyle, but 5,000 hits is a significant number. It’s more than seminarians trying to spot themselves on television!”
He added: “That photograph of the seminarians of this country surrounding the Holy Father was extraordinary. It was clear that there was a love for the Holy Father. It was clear that there was a common desire among everyone on those steps to follow Christ and serve him authentically.
“That photo on the steps of Oscott was not just an opportune snapshot for a newspaper or magazine. It was an image of hope for the Catholic community in the United Kingdom.”
He concluded: “The Lord still calls men to the priesthood and there are men listening to that call and answering it. Gathered on those steps we, as seminarians, said to the people of this country that the future is hopeful, there is something worthwhile in following Christ’s call to the priesthood.”