Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, was the guest speaker at a candlelit dinner in London on February 2 to raise funds for Westminster Cathedral.
The event at the Travellers Club in Pall Mall was organised by the Friends of Westminster Cathedral, a charity established in 1977 to support the Cathedral’s function, fabric and decoration.
Archbishop Mennini received a warm welcome as he mingled with guests at the champagne reception.
A three-course dinner followed in the library of the Travellers, reputedly the favourite dining room of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Guests dined on smoked salmon, roast Aylesbury duck and poached pear and ice cream.
The charity auction, conducted by auctioneer Matthew Hockley Smith, included an original John Ryan cartoon of The Catholic Herald’s Cardinal Grotti, a week in Venice and the chance to be “an extra” on the BBC series The Hour. Addressing guests after the dinner the nuncio said that he was very pleased to return to England and had always held the Cathedral in “great affection”. This was the start, he said, of a continuing friendship.
Canon Christopher Tuckwell, administrator of the Cathedral, thanked the Friends for their support and prayers. He said that at long last there was heating in the Cathedral and the welcome prospect of a new lavatory block, in time for the summer.
As it was the feast of Candlemas guests left with a party bag containing a blessed candle, a miniature bottle of Amaretto and a chocolate rabbit to augur in the spring. Director of the Friends, Christina White, said it had been a privilege to have the nuncio present.
She said: “We were delighted to welcome Archbishop Mennini. He made a deep and lasting impression on all of us. We were struck by his humility and his holiness.”